"My friend is handsome" and "My mother is anxious" are judgments about people which often are quite accurate. We use judgments about people to navigate easily through the social world. How are social judgments made in our brains? Where are the brain areas that make social judgments, and where or how are the people we judge represented in our brain? Do “grandmother” neuro-cells exist? These are some of the questions that this project tries to answer.
The project is supported by researchers specialized in social neuroscience who study the mystery of the social brain. In social neuroscience, state-of-the art neuroimaging techniques are used to explore which parts of our brains are active during social processes. This research can provide information on a wide spectrum of topics such as mind reading (how spontaneous people infer goals and desires by observing them), autism (the lack of understanding of others) and paranoia (seeing too many hidden motives in others). Where in the brain we store information about other people can tell us much about potential effects of brain damage by an accident or a stroke, and what impact this has on the social functioning of the patient.
The most important research question currently is the role of the cerebellum in social cognition: How the little brain (=cerebellum) gets a bigger role? Is it necessary for social judgments, or is it just a tool that facilitates these judgments?