[PREPRINT] Neural systems underlying RDoC social constructs: An activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis

Pintos Lobo R, Bottenhorn KL, Riedel MC, Toma AI, Hare MM, Smith DD, Moor AC, Cowan IK, Valdes JA, Bartley JE, Salo T, Boeving ER, Pankey B, Sutherland MT, Musser ED, Laird AR, bioRxiv (2022).


Neuroscientists have sought to identify the underlying neural systems supporting mental processes involved in social cognition. These processes allow us to interact and communicate with others, form social relationships, and navigate the social world. Through the use of NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework, we evaluated consensus among hundreds of studies that examined brain activity during social and social cognition tasks to elucidate, at a large scale, regions comprising the “social brain”. In addition, we examined convergence across tasks corresponding to the four RDoC social constructs, including Affiliation and Attachment, Social Communication, Perception and Understanding of Self, and Perception and Understanding of Others. We assessed activation patterns by performing a series of coordinate-based meta-analyses using the activation likelihood estimate (ALE) method. One meta-analysis was performed on whole-brain coordinates reported from 864 fMRI contrasts of healthy social processing (239 publications; 6,232 participants) using the NiMARE Python package. The meta-analysis of all social contrasts revealed consensus in the “social brain”, including the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), temporoparietal junction (TPJ), bilateral insula, amygdala, fusiform gyrus, precuneus, and thalamus. Additionally, four separate RDoC-based meta-analyses revealed differential convergence associated with the four social constructs. These outcomes highlight the neural support underlying these social constructs and inform future research on alterations among neurotypical and atypical populations.