Brain imaging investigation of the neural correlates of observing virtual social interactions

Keen Sung, Sanda Dolcos, Sophie Florhenry, Crystal Zhou, Claudia Gasior, Jennifer Argo, Florin Dolcos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to gauge social interactions is crucial in the assessment of others' intentions. Factors such as facial expressions and body language affect our decisions in personal and professional life alike. These "friend or foe" judgements are often based on first impressions, which in turn may affect our decisions to "approach or avoid". Previous studies investigating the neural correlates of social cognition tended to use static facial stimuli. Here, we illustrate an experimental design in which whole-body animated characters were used in conjunction with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) recordings. Fifteen participants were presented with short movie-clips of guest-host interactions in a business setting, while fMRI data were recorded; at the end of each movie, participants also provided ratings of the host behaviour. This design mimics more closely real-life situations, and hence may contribute to better understanding of the neural mechanisms of social interactions in healthy behaviour, and to gaining insight into possible causes of deficits in social behaviour in such clinical conditions as social anxiety and autism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2379
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number53
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Decision-Making
  • Event-Related fMRI
  • Issue 53
  • Neuroscience
  • Non-Verbal Communication
  • Social Cognition Network
  • Social Knowledge
  • Social Perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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