The Social Brain: Evolution and Pathology

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The Social Brain: Evolution and Pathology

The Social Brain: Evolution and Pathology
edited by Martin Brüne, Hedda Ribbert, Wulf Schiefenhövel
John Wiley & Sons | ISBN 0-470-84960-6 | 2003 | PDF | 456 pages

Provides an inter-disciplinary exploration of the development of social cognition in humans and looks at the psychiatric implications when these processes go awry. The resulting brain disorders or psychopathologies can manifest in various forms such as autism, schizophrenia, delusional disorders, affective disorders (bipolar disease), and borderline personality disorders of old age (dementia). There is increasing interest in what determines our social awareness and behaviour and essentially this book applies "theory of mind" to psychiatry and psychopathology. With contributions from leading authorities in the field, this will be a standard reference for years to come.

The human brain is, without doubt, the most complex organ ever evolved. But why did our ancestors grow such large and energetically "expensive" brains? Recent studies suggest that many brain functions evolved in primates and early humans due to the necessity to cope with an increasingly complex social environment. This ability, the so-called "social brain," confers advantages. For example, social cleverness and aptitude enhance an individual's chances of social success. "Behaviour reading," of facial expressions, gestures and vocalisations, allows us to anticipate or foresee how others might respond or act which has obvious advantages. In addition, apes and humans evolved the cognitive capacity of reading other's minds, commonly referred to as having a "theory of mind".
Despite their advantages, such complex brain functions also have disadvantages. For example, it takes years or - in the case of human beings - a decade or more to acquire all the social knowledge, strategies, and rules indispensable for effectively managing social demands. Moreover, there are a number of psychiatric disorders in which the ontogenetic development, the correct application, or the preservation of social cognitive capacities during an individual's lifetime have gone "awry". Autism, ADHD, focal damage in certain brain regions, endogenous psychoses, personality disorders, and dementia, share the common feature of compromised social functioning in the affected individual.

This book provides a concise overview of the evolution, development, and pathology of the human social brain and explores the psychiatric disorders that can result when that social brain is impaired.

*Integrates several key disciplines involved in the understanding of the human brain, how it evolved, its role in social interaction and psychiatric disorders.
*Appeals across a range of disciplines from psychiatry and neuropsychiatry to basic neuroscience and evolutionary biology.
*Brings together the latest research from eminent international researchers