A hallmark of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is difficulty with social interactions, including reduced social reciprocity and cooperative behavior, that in turn may stem from the inability to predict what other individuals are thinking. Yet despite the importance of these interactive social behaviors to our understanding and treatment of ASD, their single-neuronal basis and causal underpinnings are still almost completely unknown. This current lack of information presents a major roadblock to the development of neural-circuit-based therapies for ASD and other neurological disorders in which social interactions are impaired.
During her postdoctoral studies in Ziv William’s lab, Keren Haroush developed and applied an innovative approach using game-theory-driven behavioral paradigms, neural population recording and deep brain stimulation (DBS) in nonhuman primates to systematically investigate the basic neuronal building blocks of interactive social behavior1.
Haroush’s laboratory now aims to extend this work to investigate the involvement of ‘social brain’ areas in encoding and modulating primary components of interactive social behavior. To do so, her laboratory will specifically examine the single-neuronal and population encoding of self versus other in a nonhuman primate model, and employ DBS techniques to begin to delineate the circuits that causally control interactive behavior. This new line of investigation will provide a road map toward a basic understanding of the computations implemented at the single neuronal and population level within the social brain and lay an important foundation for understanding and treating disorders such as ASD.