CHBH Seminar Series: Prof Ziv Williams

Zoom (password below)
Friday 8 July 2022 (14:00-15:00)

These seminars are free to attend and are open to all, both within and outside the University. Please register your interest to attend using the link above.

We are delighted to announce that the Centre for Human Brain Health (CHBH) will welcome Professor Ziv Williams, Associate Professor in Neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, to present an online CHBH Seminar, taking place on Friday 8th July 14:00-15:00 GMT (09:00-10:00 ET).

Please find below Zoom joining details:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 812 3148 3192
Passcode: 516171

Studying social cognition in animals and humans at a single cellular scale


Social interactions are dynamic, requiring individuals to understand not only how their behavior may affect others but also how others may respond in return. In humans, social interactions are also often dominated by processes such as language and theory of mind which allow us to communicate complex thoughts and beliefs. Understanding the basic neural processes that underlie social behavior or by which individuals communicate has remained a challenge. Here, we develop naturalistic approaches in animals and humans to begin investigating these questions at cellular scale. First, by developing an ethologically based group task in three-interacting rhesus macaques, we identify detailed representations of other’s behavior by neurons in the prefrontal cortex, reflecting the other’s identities, their interactions, social context, actions, and outcomes. We also show how these cells collectively represent the interaction between specific group members and how they enable mutually beneficial social behavior. Second, by recording from neurons in the human prefrontal cortex during language-based tasks, we identify neurons that reliably encode information about others’ beliefs across richly varying scenarios and that distinguish self- from other-belief-related representations. By further following their encoding dynamics, we also show how these cells represent the contents of the others’ beliefs and accurately predict whether they are true or false. Finally, we show how these cell ensembles track linguistic information during natural speech processing and how language can be used to ask specific questions about the neuronal constructs that underlie social reasoning. Together, these studies reveal detailed cellular mechanisms for interactive social behavior in animals and humans and highlight the prospective use of naturalistic approaches in social neuroscience.

Speaker Biography

Ziv Williams is an associate professor in neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and is faculty at the Harvard-MIT division of health sciences and technology. Using an array of techniques in both animal models and humans, his main focus has been to investigate social cognition at the basic cellular level and to develop novel treatments for abnormal social behavior through neuro-modulatory and genetic techniques. 

These seminars are free to attend and are open to all, both within and outside the University. Please register your interest to attend using the link above.

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