Michael Platt, PhD
James S. Riepe University Professor
Department of Neuroscience
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Hosted by: Kari Allen
Zoom webinar link: https://wustl.zoom.us/j/95150989010
Deeper and more numerous social connections promote health, well-being, survival, and even financial success. By the same token, social exclusion and the loss of social partners result in feelings similar to physical pain. In my talk, I will discuss our work aimed at defining the biological mechanisms that mediate our ability and desire to connect and the impact of these capacities on resilience.
We leverage a unique 14–year field study of thousands of free-ranging rhesus macaques and a biobank including genomic, neuroanatomical, and brain transcriptomic data, collected before and after a major cyclone, and parallel neurophysiological and pharmacological work in the laboratory. We find that monkeys who have more friends are more successful and show increased gene expression and structural connectivity within the social brain network, particularly the middle superior temporal sulcus (mSTS).
Neurophysiological studies in our lab show mSTS neurons encode a rich array of strategic information necessary to guide social decisions like cooperation. Pharmacologically inactivating mSTS impairs the sophistication of social interactions. In the field, monkeys who lived through the cyclone showed upregulation of aging-related genes in immune and inflammatory pathways, accompanied by physical decline. Behaviorally, monkeys responded to the acute and chronic stress of the cyclone by becoming more social and less aggressive. Current work aims to determine whether biological predispositions for social connections shape resilience to climate-induced stressors.