The neural underpinnings of social behaviour are discussed in a special collection of review and opinion articles published this week in Nature Neuroscience.
In a pair of complementary perspective articles, Naomi Eisenberger and Andreas Meyer-Lindberg describe the cross-talk between social factors in everyday life and physical and mental health, respectively: social disconnection and stress is associated with more bodily illness, as well as a higher risk for disorders such as schizophrenia. However, the brain is an extremely plastic organ, and in their piece, Richard Davidson and Bruce McEwen review how interventions such as meditation are likely to result in brain plasticity associated with positive outcomes. They also look at animal work suggesting that both positive and negative factors can result in structural and functional changes in the brain.
Other articles in the special issue review how hormones such as oxytocin and testosterone modulate social behaviors ranging from friendliness to aggression in both animals and humans, and a critical review of studies of how the brain produces empathy, the ability to feel what another person is feeling, amongst other topics.