Certain brain waves may be related to social behavior, study suggests

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A new study conducted on mice showed that a lack of electrical wave patterns in the brain were associated with signs of stress, depression, and autism.

The study was published in the journal, eLife, and led by Takuya Sasaki, PhD, of Tohoku University Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Science. According to the study’s authors, the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and amygdala regions of the brain are responsible for regulating emotion and have been shown to be altered with psychiatric diseases. In this study, Sasaki and a team of researchers at Tohoku University set out to explore the mechanisms behind these changes.

Scientists recorded electrical brain signals in the mPFC and amygdala brain regions of mice as they interacted with each other. The study found that when the mice were social, their brain waves began to change significantly. Brain waves at the frequency band of theta decreased while gamma increased. However, scientists observed that mice who exhibited poor social skills or had symptoms of depression or autism, did not present these brain waves. Scientists were able to artificially replicate social behavior-related brain waves in these mice, restoring their ability to have normal social interactions.

"This finding provides a unified understanding of brain activity underlying social behavior and its deficits in disease," Sasaki said in a statement.

Sasaki is currently working to determine whether these same brain mechanisms work in humans. In the future, he said he hopes to further analyze these brain waves and better understand the involvement other regions of the brain have in social behavior.