THIS IS NOT SCIENCE !
And if it is some “arbitrarily” selected “news” – why is it important enough to be listed under “Highlights” for 2013 – and what does it have to do with autism research?
Note: “Weasel Words” in green
Decision to Give a Group Effort in the Brain
Monkeys find some reward in giving, even though they prefer to receive
A monkey would probably never agree that it is better to give than to receive, but they do apparently get some reward from giving to another monkey.
During a task in which rhesus macaques had control over whether they or another monkey would receive a squirt of fruit juice, three distinct areas of the brain were found to be involved in weighing benefits to oneself against benefits to the other, according to new research by Duke University researchers. TOTAL BS ASSUMPTION. There is no way to prove that monkeys formulate “social concepts” by which to make decisions about their behavior. This attributes a level and type of human cognition PROJECTED onto the monkey brain, and that this “quality of concept formation” and evaluation can be detected by neuronal activity. TOTAL fantasy!
The team used sensitive electrodes to detect the activity of individual neurons as the animals weighed different scenarios, such as whether to reward themselves, the other monkey or nobody at all. So – the monkeys “told the researchers” that this is what they were doing? HOW? Three areas of the brain were seen to weigh the problem differently depending on the social context of the reward. The research appears Dec. 24 in the journal Nature Neuroscience. What this reveals is magical thinking on the part of the researchers!
Using a computer screen to allocate juice rewards, the monkeys preferred to reward themselves first and foremost. But they also chose to reward the other monkey when it was either that or nothing for either of them. They also were more likely to give the reward to a monkey they knew over one they didn’t, preferred to give to lower status than higher status monkeys, and had almost no interest in giving the juice to an inanimate object.
Calculating the social aspects of the reward system (OMG!) seems to be a combination of action by two centers involved in calculating all sorts of rewards and a third center that adds the social dimension, according to lead researcher Michael Platt, director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
Comment: If one wanted to “make up” a study that exemplified the crisis of pseudoscience in American research – this one would serve as the perfect template.
The orbital frontal cortex, right above the eyes, was activated (would also be activated if you hit it with a baseball bat) when calculating rewards to the self. The anterior cingulate sulcus in the middle of the top of the brain seemed to calculate giving up a reward. But both centers appear “divorced from social context,” Platt said. A third area, the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg), seemed to “care a lot about what happened to the other monkey,” Platt said.
Comment: So, “brain parts” or even a few neurons, have the capacity “to care” (have empathy, compassion and awareness of “social concepts”) You’ve got to be kidding!
Based on results of various combinations of the reward-giving scenario the monkeys were put through, it would appear that neurons in the ACCg encode both the giving and receiving of rewards, and do so in a remarkably similar way.
The use of single-neuron electrodes to measure the activity of brain areas gives a much more precise picture than brain imaging, Platt said. Even the best imaging available now is “a six-second snapshot of tens of thousands of neurons,” which are typically operating in milliseconds.
Comment: Technological “advance” in detection DOES NOT magically “cure” or improve the idiotic thinking of researchers.
What the team has seen happening is consistent with other studies of damaged ACCg regions in which animals lost their typical hesitation about retrieving food when facing social choices. This same region of the brain is active in people when they empathize with someone else.
OMG! Will someone please send DUKE “BS” detectors to install in their labs???
“Many neurons in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg) respond both when monkeys choose a drink for themselves and when they choose to give a drink to another monkey,” Platt said. (Then how do you differentiate these two responses?) “One might view these as sort of mirror neurons for the reward system.” The region is active as an animal merely watches another animal receiving a reward without having one themselves.
The research is another piece of the puzzle as neuroscientists search for the roots of charity and social behavior in our species and others. (This is not science) There have been two schools of thought about how the social reward system is set up, Platt said. One holds that there is generic circuitry for rewards that has been adapted to our social behavior because it helped humans and other social animals like monkeys thrive. Another school holds that social behavior is so important to humans and other highly social animals like monkeys that there may be some special circuits for it, Platt said.
This finding, in macaques that have only a very distant common ancestor with us and are “not a particularly prosocial animal,” suggests that “this specialized social circuitry evolved a long time ago presumably to support cooperative behavior,” Platt said.
The research was supported by grants from the Ruth K. Broad Biomedical Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Institute of Mental Health (MH095894), and Department of Defense (W81XWH-11-1-0584). There it is!
And still we must ask, What does this have to do with Autism?
CITATION: “Neuronal reference frames for social decisions in primate frontal cortex,” Steve W.C. Chang, Jean-François Gariépy, Michael L. Platt. Nature Neuroscience, Dec. 24, 2012. Doi: 10.1038/nn.3287