Gray matter volume of the anterior insular cortex and social networking

Alfredo Spagna, Alexander J. Dufford, Qiong Wu, Tingting Wu, Weihao Zheng, Edgar E. Coons, Patrick R. Hof, Bin Hu, Yanhong Wu, Jin Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In human life, social context requires the engagement in complex interactions among individuals as the dynamics of social networks. The evolution of the brain as the neurological basis of the mind must be crucial in supporting social networking. Although the relationship between social networking and the amygdala, a small but core region for emotion processing, has been reported, other structures supporting sophisticated social interactions must be involved and need to be identified. In this study, we examined the relationship between morphology of the anterior insular cortex (AIC), a structure involved in basic and high-level cognition, and social networking. Two independent cohorts of individuals (New York group n = 50, Beijing group n = 100) were recruited. Structural magnetic resonance images were acquired and the social network index (SNI), a composite measure summarizing an individual's network diversity, size, and complexity, was measured. The association between morphological features of the AIC, in addition to amygdala, and the SNI was examined. Positive correlations between the measures of the volume as well as sulcal depth of the AIC and the SNI were found in both groups, while a significant positive correlation between the volume of the amygdala and the SNI was only found in the New York group. The converging results from the two groups suggest that the AIC supports network-level social interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1183-1194
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • RRID:SCR_001847
  • RRID:SCR_014196
  • amygdala
  • anterior insular cortex
  • social networking
  • surface based morphometry
  • voxel based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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