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Clinical Studies of Social Neuroscience: A Lesion Model Approach

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Neuroscience and Social Science

Abstract

Understanding the neurobiological basis of complex human behaviors is a key aim for social neuroscience. Examining clinical populations with relatively circumscribed brain damage and related behavioral deficits can provide insights into brain regions which are necessary for abilities such as face processing, emotion recognition, theory of mind, and empathy. In this review, we reflect on the emerging body of evidence which combines experimental behavioral studies and neuroimaging analysis techniques in clinical groups, with a focus on four progressive neurodegenerative disorders: behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. These clinical syndromes are characterized by divergent patterns of neurodegeneration and variable degrees of impairment in social cognition and social behavior. Here, we review the paradigms which have been employed and the current patterns of findings in these syndromes and discuss how this line of research informs our understanding of the “social brain.” In addition, we consider how our conception of these clinical phenotypes has changed, as aspects of social cognition have been incorporated into diagnostic and prognostic frameworks. Finally, we propose potential avenues for future research in these syndromes to address outstanding social neuroscience questions.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by funding to Forefront, a collaborative research group dedicated to the study of frontotemporal dementia and motor neurone disease, from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia program grant (#APP1037746) and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders Memory Node (#CE110001021). FK is supported by an NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowship (#APP1097026). LCdL is supported by ANR-10-LABX-0087 IEC and ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL*. JVdS is supported by Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen (FWO), Alzheimer Research Foundation (P#14013), and KU Leuven Starting Grant.

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Kumfor, F., Hazelton, J.L., De Winter, FL., de Langavant, L.C., Van den Stock, J. (2017). Clinical Studies of Social Neuroscience: A Lesion Model Approach. In: Ibáñez, A., Sedeño, L., García, A. (eds) Neuroscience and Social Science. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68421-5_12

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