Skip to main content

Social Cognition in Adolescents: Brain Networks and Social Networks

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SCANS (Social Cognition in Adolescents: Brain Networks and Social Networks)

Período documentado: 2019-02-01 hasta 2020-07-31

To function successfully in complex social environments, we need the skills to understand others and interact with them. Crucial processes underlying our ability to understand others are the ability to take another person’s perspective into account and attribute intentions, desires and beliefs and the ability to share other’s feelings by observing or learning about their emotional state. Social neuroscience has made enormous progress in identifying the neural mechanisms underlying these abilities. This research revealed that social reward shares the neural representation of the reward system, and likewise, social pain shares the neural representation of physical pain. Development during adolescence is characterized by rapid changes in the social brain. A key feature is an increased sensitivity to social reward and social pain, which is a double-edged sword - advantageous in facilitating the learning of complex social skills, but detrimental, when it encourages unhealthy peer concordant behavior or when repeated exclusion leads to social disengagement. It is therefore crucial to understand the interplay between adolescent social brain development and their social experiences. Social network analysis provides the tools to capture the increasing complexity of adolescents’ social environment.The aim of this proposal is to understand social-cognitive development in adolescence from the biological to the social, by integrating social neuroscience with social network approaches. The key objectives is to investigate longitudinally how neural correlates of social cognition relate to social behaviour in daily life and to social network position and structure.
The project has established a strong network of schools for seconday education, which made it possible to recruit a large cohort of adolescents (n=850) who particpate in the research evey six months. During every measurement, the particpants perform tasks aimed at assessing social cognitive functions, they report about their social networks and a smaller subset also fills in an electronic diary about their social experiences. Once a year a subsample of 80 adolescents undergo fMRI scanning in which brain activity is recorded during resting state and during performance of social cognitive tasks. The baseline data are currently being analysed to investigate how social cognitive functions are associated with social network position and structure.
The combination of behavioural data, social network data, experience sampling data and functional neuroimaging data in a longitudinal design is expected to yield important breakthroughs in our understanding of adolescent social development. This is important, because adolescence is a sensitive period in which increased sensitivity to peer influences may lead to positive but also to negative ouctomes with long-lasting impact.