Last updated 17.2.2022

In humans and macaque monkeys, socially relevant face processing is accomplished via a distributed functional network that includes specialized patches in frontal cortex. It is unclear whether a similar network exists in New World primates, who diverged ~35 million years from Old World primates. The common marmoset is a New World primate species ideally placed to address this question given their complex social repertoire. Here, we demonstrate the existence of a putative high-level face processing network in marmosets. Like Old World primates, marmosets show differential activation in anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortices while they view socially relevant videos of marmoset faces. We corroborate the locations of these frontal regions by demonstrating functional and structural connectivity between these regions and temporal lobe face patches. Given the evolutionary separation between macaques and marmosets, our results suggest this frontal network specialized for social face processing predates the separation between Platyrrhini and Catarrhini.

Laboratory for Neural Circuits and Cognitive Control

​​Social cognition is a dynamic process that requires the perception and integration of a complex set of idiosyncratic features between interacting conspecifics. Here we present a method for simultaneously measuring the whole-brain activation of two socially interacting marmoset monkeys using functional magnetic resonance imaging. MRI hardware (a radiofrequency coil and peripheral devices) and image-processing pipelines were developed to assess brain responses to socialization, both on an intra-brain and inter-brain level. Notably, the brain activation of a marmoset when viewing a second marmoset in-person versus when viewing a pre-recorded video of the same marmoset-i.e., when either capable or incapable of socially interacting with a visible conspecific-demonstrates increased activation in the face-patch network. This method enables a wide range of possibilities for potentially studying social function and dysfunction in a non-human primate model.

Recent Papers from the lab

The common marmoset has enormous promise as a nonhuman primate model of human brain functions. While resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) has provided evidence for a similar organization of marmoset and human cortices, the technique cannot be used to map the functional correspondences of brain regions between species. This limitation can be overcome by movie-driven fMRI (md-fMRI), which has become a popular tool for noninvasively mapping the neural patterns generated by rich and naturalistic stimulation. Here, we used md-fMRI in marmosets and humans to identify whole-brain functional correspondences between the two primate species. In particular, we describe functional correlates for the well-known human face, body, and scene patches in marmosets. We find that these networks have a similar organization in both species, suggesting a largely conserved organization of higher-order visual areas between New World marmoset monkeys and humans. However, while face patches in humans and marmosets were activated by marmoset faces, only human face patches responded to the faces of other animals. Together, the results demonstrate that higher-order visual processing might be a conserved feature between humans and New World marmoset monkeys but that small, potentially important functional differences exist.

Gilbert KM, Clery JC, Gati JS, Hori Y, Johnston KD, Mashkovtsev A, Selvanayagam J, Zeman P, Menon RS, Schaeffer DJ, Everling S (2021) Simultaneous fMRI of two marmosets. Nature Communications 16;12(1):6608

PI: Stefan EverlinG


Hori Y, Clery JC, Selvanayagam J, Schaeffer DJ, Johnston KD, Menon RS, Everling S (2021) Interspecies activation correlations reveal functional correspondences between marmoset and human brain areas. PNAS 118: e2110980119