CBBM Lecture "Learning the neurobiology underlying social behavior from data"

by Junior-Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Danilo Bzdok,

Section "Social and Affective Neuroscience",

Department of Psychiatry,

RWTH Aachen University

will take place on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 from 17:15 to 18:15 hours in CBBM Building, EG, B1/B2.

Host: Prof. Dr. Sören Krach
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
University of Lübeck


Social skills probably emerge from interaction between different neural processing levels. However, social neuroscience is fragmented into highly specialized, rarely cross-referenced topics. The present study attempts a systematic reconciliation by computing a social brain atlas from neural activity meta-analyses on social cognitive capacities. The social brain was characterized by meta-analytic connectivity modeling evaluating coactivation in task-focused brain states and physiological fluctuations evaluating correlations in task-free brain states. Network clustering allowed for functional segregation into i) lower sensory, ii) limbic, iii) intermediate, and iv) high associative neural circuits that together mediate various social phenomena. Functional profiling demonstrated that no brain region and network appears to exclusively devoted to social processes. Finally, nodes of the putative mirror-neuron system were coherently cross-connected during tasks and more tightly functional coupling to embodied simulation systems rather than abstract emulation systems. These first steps will help reintegrate the specialized research agendas in the social and affective sciences.


By additional affiliation with the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine 1, Research Center Jülich, I received training in neuroanatomy from Karl Zilles and Katrin Amunts. I defended a PhD in cognitive neuroscience in december 2012 (“Functional Specialization for Social Processes in the Human Brain”). It received the Grünenthal prize from my faculty level, the Friedrich-Wilhelm prize and the Borchers medal from my university, as well as the Hans-Heimann prize from the German Society of Psychiatry.

From 2013 to 2015 I then pursued a PhD in computer science on machine-learning together with Bertrand Thirion and Gaël Varoquaux at Neurospin & INRIA near Paris and Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf (“Statistical Learning of Biological Structure in Human Brain Imaging”), supported by a PhD scholarship of the German National Academic Foundation. Since September 2015 I am heading the section for “Social and Affective Neuroscience” at the Department of Psychiatry, RWTH Aachen University, as an assistant professor.