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This project will use neuroimaging to determine the neurophysiological processes that underlie individual and communal relationships. In our previous imaging studies, we have shown that there are parametric relationships between the volume of neuron bundles in key areas of the brain and both mentalising competences and social network size. These involved classic locations known to be involved in mentalising. However, there is also neuroimaging evidence to suggest that different kinds of relationship do not involve activation in exactly the same brain regions. This is also implied by our own studies showing that kinship and friendship behave in radically different ways. Between them, these findings suggest the novel hypothesis that kinship relationships might be processed through a more direct (implicit?) mechanism than is the case for friendships.


-Machin, A. J. and Dunbar, RIM. (2011). The Brain Opiod Theory of Social Attachment. Behaviour, 148, 985-1025. 

-Touminen, L., Hirvonen, J., Sams, M., Jääskeläinen, I., Machin, A., Hari, R., DUNBAR, RIM. and Nummenmaa. (2013). Social touch activates endogenous µ-opioid system in humans - A pet study. Presentation to the Society for Neuroscience.