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Social Neuroscience PSY4712

Course Manual
Research Master Neuroeconomics
Academic Year 2015-2016
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience
Maastricht University

Table of Contents

Outline of the course 4

Schedule 5

Task 1 Social Neurosicence 10

Task 2 Emotion Regulation 11

Task 3 Self-Reflection 12

Task 4 Empathy 13

Task 5 Moral Judgment 14

Task 6 The Neural Roots of Fairness 15

Task 7 Algae Animals Aggression 16

Literature 17

Franziska Emmerling, PhD

Oxfordlaan 55, room 2.018


The Course

What is Social Neuroscience?

Social neuroscience (SN) is an interdisciplinary field that asks questions about topics traditionally of
interest to social psychology (such as emotion regulation, attitude change, or stereotyping), economics
and political science. To answer these questions, it uses methods traditionally employed by cognitive
neuroscientists, such as functional brain imaging and neuropsychological patient analysis. By integrating
the theories and methods of its parent disciplines, SN seeks to explain social and emotional behavior in
terms of the interaction between three levels of analysis:

o The social level, which includes descriptions of experience, behavior, and context;

o The cognitive level, which specifies information processing mechanisms;

o The neural level, which specifies neural systems that instantiate these processes.

By contrast, social psychology emphasizes the first and second, while cognitive neuroscience emphasizes
the second and third of these three levels. SN researchers are interested in questions such as: How does
the brain enable us to know what other people feel? Is there a neural substrate for cooperation or
aggression? Which brain circuits suppress prejudices? Are social emotions represented by the brain in a
different way compared to basic emotions?

Although research on the biological correlates of social processes has been ongoing for decades,
this approach has gone through a period of rapid expansion with the advent of new techniques like
functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Course Aim and Structure

The primary aim of this course is to gain a thorough theoretical understanding of a selection of typical
social neuroscientific topics. In the present course we will introduce 7 different topics. These topics are:
Social Neuroscience Definition and Necessity (Task 1), Emotion Regulation (Task 2), Self-Reflection
(Task 3), Empathy (Task 4), Moral Judgment (Task 5), The Neural Roots of Fairness (Task 6), and Algae
Animals Aggression (Task 7). We have selected these themes because they represent currently much
investigated social cognitive neuroscience issues. Furthermore, we tried to avoid overlap (in content) with
other courses as much as possible. Each week, there will be one tutorial group meeting. The group-
meetings will be divided into a pre- and post-discussion. In the pre-discussion, you will brainstorm about
the problem. In the post- discussion, the literature will be discussed in the group. In addition,
presentations about the literature will be given by a group of 2 students for each topic. An overview of the
final schedule of the course (all tasks and all deadlines) will be provided during the first tutorial.

From the total of 8 tutorial meetings, you can miss maximally two meetings in order to still pass this
course. However, it is not approved to miss a meeting during which it is your turn to present.

Date Time Location Content

February 2nd TUE 13:30-15:30 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Introduction

February 4th THU 16:00-18:00 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Task 1


February 16th TUE 13:30-15:30 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Task 2

February 18th THU 16:00-18:00 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Task 3

February 23rd TUE 13:30-15:30 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Task 4

March 1st TUE 13:30-15:30 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Task 5

March 3rd THU 16:00-18:00 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Task 6

March 8th TUE 13:30-15:30 tutorial UNS40 4.764 Task7 & recap

1st draft research

March 8th TUE 12:00 a.m. franziska.emmerling@maastrichtuniversity.nl

deadline peer
March 11th FRI 12:00 a.m. feedback on two franziska.emmerling@maastrichtuniversity.nl

deadline final
March 15th TUE midnight franziska.emmerling@maastrichtuniversity.nl
version paper

April 1st FRI 9:00-12:00 EXAM FOR100 MECC Westhal GOOD LUCK

Besides the exam, you will work on three assignments: you will present a literature summary for one of
the tasks, you will write a short research proposal, and you will peer review (provide feedback on) two
research proposals of your fellow students.

Presentation assignment
During one of the meetings you will have to give a mini-lecture summarizing all articles in your literature
list for the specific task. As a preparation for your presentation, you will read the literature and create a
mini-lecture in PowerPoint. Your mini-lecture may take maximally 20 minutes. After the presentation, the
literature will be discussed with the whole group. It is recommended to start preparing your presentation
soon after the pre- discussion has taken place. The optimal presentation discusses, but also integrates, the
studied literature. You can address the following questions during your presentation: What is the research
topic? Why is it important? Which research questions were raised? Does it make sense to investigate this
topic by means of neuroscientific methodology? What methods and designs were used? What are the
most important findings and conclusions? What are the implications of these findings? What remains
open for discussion? What are the similarities and differences between the studies? What are possibilities
for future research?

Students who are not presenting during the meeting are urged to be actively involved and ask critical

Tips for a good presentation

What is the research topic?
Why is it important?
Does it make sense to investigate this topic with neuroscientific methodology?
Which research questions were raised?
What were the hypotheses?
What methods and designs were used?
What are the most important findings and conclusions?
What are the implications of these findings?
What remains open for discussion?
What are the similarities and differences between the studies?
What are possibilities for future research?

Title and introduction
Conclusions and discussion
Interactive discussion o Answer questions

Form (Powerpoint)
Use slides to guide your talk, not the other way around.
Dont place too much textual information on the slides, rather use images or movies to
Illustrate your story (movies, stories, etc.).
Use a pleasant, professional layout and proper font-size.
Preferably not more than one concept or experiment per slide.
Be original; try to keep your audience interested throughout your presentation.
Avoid typos
And once more: If there is too much text on your slides, you will not pass the presentation
assignment! A good scientific presentation needs (almost) no text!

Presentation style
Have your own style, but:
Speak confidently and slowly using clear language.
Tell a story instead of giving a report.
Look at the audience.

20 minutes max! You will not pass the assignment, if you go over time more than 5 minutes.

Take all the above into account when preparing.
Practice your talk out loud.

Research proposal assignment


In your short research proposal, you will propose a novel experiment in the field of Social
Neuroscience. Your project can relate to any of the tasks discussed in this course, but also evolve around
any other social phenomenon. You can focus on any scientific method: fMRI, NIBS, EEG,

Your research proposal should consist of (1) an Introduction (incl. research question, aim of the study,
brief literature review, hypotheses), (2) a Method section in which you discuss how you would
investigate your hypothesis (methods, sample, tasks, analyses) and (3) a Potential Results / Discussion
section in which you describe potential outcomes and how and why they would be valuable for the
scientific community ( scientific impact). (4) References should be included in APA format.

You have to clearly reflect upon the question which additional procedural knowledge will be gained
by investigating your specific social phenomenon by means of neuroscientific methodology. What
does neuroscience add?

The first and final draft of your research proposal should contain at least 700 words, but not exceed 1000


On March 8th, before 12 am (noon), you e-mail (franziska.emmerling@maastrichtuniversity.nl) the first

draft of your proposal to the coordinator. You will receive two other proposals which you will have to
read and comment on. E-mail your feedback to your tutor on March 11th, before 12:00 am (noon). The
deadline for the final version of your research proposal is March 15th.

You will be evaluated on the following points:

Presentation (pass/fail)

Feedback on a research proposal (pass/fail)

Research assignment (1/3 of your grade)

Exam (2/3 of your grade)



Already the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (Politics I) and the Dutch-Portuguese philosopher
Spinoza (Ethics, IV) stated that humans are Social Animals. Our brains have to deal with social
situations every day, leading to the evolution/development of highly specified neural networks that help
us to navigate our (social) environment.

A. Think of examples in which human biological mechanisms influences the social environment.

B. Think of examples in which the social environment influences human biology.

WHEN and HOW do you think is it meaningful to combine biological and social perspectives?

A. Fill in the following questionnaire:

Sum the total on item group 1 (1/3/5/7/8/10) and divide by 6: _____

Sum the total on item group 2 (2/4/6/9) and divide by 4: _____

Discuss your results using the emotion regulation model below.

B. Generally, emotion-generative and emotion-regulatory processes are conjoined in nearly every

instance. Both processes are so tightly intertwined that some scientists have argued that no clear
distinction can be drawn between them. Do you think that it is possible and useful for research to
distinguish between emotion generation and regulation? Do you have any ideas on how neuroscience can
help solving the dilemma?


I think psychology and self-

reflection is one of the major
catastrophes of the twentieth

B. In experimental psychology, the debate has centered on two main issues. Is the self a unique
cognitive structure? Does self-referential processing have some privileged status in the brain, or is it
functionally equivalent to semantic processing about other classes of stimuli, such as cars, politicians, and
Caribbean islands? Put simply, is self- referential processing special in any way?

(Kelley et al., 2002, p. 785)

A branch of literature suggests that the neural correlates of self-representation may be contextually

Handling problems The Party


A. What is empathy?



Come up with a cognitive model of empathic processing.

Consider the following aspects: automatic vs. conscious; emotional vs. cognitive; observer characteristics
(e.g., gender); characteristics of the person being observed (e.g., likability).

Congenital Insensitivity To Pain Syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by the lack of ability to feel
physical pain. Sufferers often sustain injuries to their bodies because of this. They may even inadvertently
injure themselves by biting their lips or tongue or scratching themselves without realizing they are doing
damage to their bodies.

Do you think that a person with this disorder is able to empathize with the movies you saw in Part A of
this task?


According to an online dictionary, moral behavior can be defined as:

Being concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character.
Source: http://www.thefree dic tionary.com/morals

How do we decide whether another persons behavior is good or bad?

Julie and Mark are brother and sister. They are travelling together in France on summer vacation from
college. One night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide that it would be
interesting and fun if they tried making love. At the very least it would be a new experience for each of
them. Julie was already taking birth control pills, but Mark uses a condom too, just to be safe. They both
enjoyed making love, but they decide not to do it again. They keep that night as a special secret, which
makes them feel even closer to each other.

Fill in.

Would standard economic models agree with your choices?


Game theory is a collection of rigorous models attempting to understand and explain situations in which
decision-makers must interact with one another. It offers a rich source of both behavioral tasks and data,
in addition to well-specified models for the investigation of social exchange. (p.599, Sanfey et al., 2007)

Below, you see the time line of a single round of the ultimatum game. How do you play this game?

Do you know other neuroeconomic games to examine social decision making?

B. Reciprocal fairness (RF) has been demonstrated in the Ultimatum Game. RF is the belief that one
should receive what one is due based on ones actions (i.e. positive actions should be rewarded and
harmful actions punished) (p.829, Knoch et al., 2006).

Which brain area would you disrupt by means of non-invasive brain stimulation to investigate reciprocal

C. Being fair or even self-less when it comes to distributing money could be considered a social norm
in our society, couldnt it? Do you think that the neural correlates of fairness can be dissociated from
the neural mechanism implementing norms?

D. Is being fair or nice always the least selfish option???


A. This is Karl Deisseroth. If he would receive the Nobel Price one day what would it be for?
Some hints

B. How would you use the above described technique in order to investigate social constructs, such as,
for instance, aggression?

Have a look at video3 and video4 in the supplementary material of the nature paper by Scott and
colleagues, 2015:



Task 1 Social Neuroscience: WHEN and HOW

Cacioppo, J. T., Berntson, G. G., Sheridan, J. F., & McClintock, M. K. (2000). Multilevel integrative
analyses of human behavior: social neuroscience and the complementing nature of social and
biological approaches. Psychological bulletin, 126(6), 829.

Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2013). Social neuroscience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(6),

Reynolds, S. M., & Berridge, K. C. (2008). Emotional environments retune the valence of appetitive
versus fearful functions in nucleus accumbens. Nature neuroscience, 11(4), 423-425.

Task 2 Emotion Regulation

Gross, J.J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology,
39, 281291. Mainly focus on figure 1

Gross, J.J., Sheppes, G., Urry, H.L., (2011). Emotion generation and emotion regulation: A distinction we
should make (carefully). Cognition and Emotion, 25, 765781.

Goldin, P.R., McRae, K., Ramel, W., & Gross, J.J. (2007). The neural bases of emotion regulation:
Reappraisal and suppression of negative Emoti on. Biological Psychiatry, 63, 577-586.

Banks, S.J., Eddy, K.T., Angstadt, M., Nathan, P.J., & Phan, K.L. (2007). Amygdala- frontal connectivity
during emotion regulation. SCAN, 2, 303312.

Wagner, D.D., & Heatherton, T.F. (2012). Self-regulatory depletion increases emotional reactivity
in the amygdala. SCAN, nss082.

Task 3 Self-Reflection

Uddin, L.Q., Iacoboni, M., Lange, C., Keenan, J.P., (2007). The self and social cognition: the role of
cortical midline structures and mirror neurons. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 153-157.

Moran, J. M., Kelley, W. M., & Heatherton, T. F. (2013). What can the organization of the brains default
mode network tell us about self-knowledge? Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 1-6.

Jenkins, A. C., & Mitchell, J. P. (2011). Medial prefrontal cortex subserves diverse forms of self-
reflection. Social Neuroscience, 6, 211-218.

Moran, J. M., Macrae, C. N., Heatherton, T. F., Wyland, C. L., & Kelley, W. M. (2006). Neuroanatomical
Evidence for Distinct Cognitive and Affective Components of Self. Journal of Cognitive
Neuroscience, 18, 1586-1594.

Task 4 Empathy

Bernhardt, B.C. & Singer, T. (2012). The neural basis of empathy. Annual review of neuroscience, 35, 1-

Danziger, N., Faillenot, I., & Peyron, R. (2009). Can we share a pain we never felt? Neural correlates of
empathy in patients with congenital insensitivity to pain. Neuron, 61, 203212.

Jackson, P. L., Meltzoff, A. N., & Decety, J. (2005). How do we perceive the pain of others? A window
into the neural processes involved in empathy. NeuroImage, 24, 771-779.

Singer, T., Seymour, B., Doherty, J.P., Stephan, K.E., Dolan, R.J., & Frith, C.D. (2006). Empathic neural
responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others. Nature, 439, 466469.

Task 5 Moral Judgment

Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment.
Psychological Review, 108, 814834.

Miller, G. (2008). The roots of morality. Science, 320, 734737. Easy background commentary.

Greene, J. D., Sommerville, R.B., Nystrom, L.E., Darley, J.M., & Cohen, J.D. (2001). An fMRI
investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293, 2105-2108.

Koenigs, M., Young, L., Adolphs, A., Tranel, D., Cushman, F., Hauser, M., & Damasio, A. (2007).
Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgment. Nature, 446, 908-911.

Young, L., Camprodon, J.A., Hauser, M.m Pascual-Leone, A., & Saxe, R. (2010). Disruption of the right
temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in
moral judgments. PNAS, 107, 6753-6758.

Task 6 The Neural Roots of Fairness

Rilling, J. K., & Sanfey, A. G. (2010). The neuroscience of social decision-making. Annual Review of
Psychology, 62, 23-48.

Sanfey, A. G. (2007). Social decision-making: insights from game theory and neuroscience. Science, 318,

Knoch, D., Pascual-Leone, A., Meyer, K., Treyer, V., & Fehr, E. (2006). Diminishing reciprocal fairness
by disrupting the right prefrontal cortex. Science, 312, 829-832.

Ruff, C. C., Ugazio, G., & Fehr, E. (2013). Changing social norm compliance with noninvasive brain
stimulation. Science, 342(6157), 482-484.

Strang, S., Gross, J., Schuhmann, T., Riedl, A., Weber, B., & Sack, A. (2014). Be nice if you have to-The
neurobiological roots of strategic fairness. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, nsu114.

Task 7 Algae Animals Aggression

Bruce D. Bartholow The aggressive brain overview / background chapter on the aggressive brain
in humans

TED talk by Ed Boyden - 'A light switch for neurons' very good and entertaining introduction to
optogenetics https://www.ted.com/talks/ed_boyden?language=en

core literature:

These papers might be difficult to understand. Be aware that we will discuss them together in order to
find out about the core messages. As it says on the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Dont panic!

Yizhar, O. (2012). Optogenetic insights into social behavior function. Biological psychiatry, 71(12),

Anderson, D. J. (2012). Optogenetics, sex, and violence in the brain: implications for psychiatry.
Biological psychiatry, 71(12), 1081-1089.

Lin, D., Boyle, M. P., Dollar, P., Lee, H., Lein, E. S., Perona, P., & Anderson, D. J. (2011). Functional
identification of an aggression locus in the mouse hypothalamus. Nature, 470(7333), 221-226.

Takahashi, A., Nagayasu, K., Nishitani, N., Kaneko, S., & Koide, T. (2014). Control of intermale
aggression by medial prefrontal cortex activation in the mouse. PloS one, 9(4), e94657.