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Face selective patches in marmoset frontal cortex

By David J. Schaeffer, Janahan Selvanayagam, Kevin D. Johnston, Ravi S Menon, Winrich A Freiwald, Stefan Everling

Posted 05 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.03.023960 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18692-2)

Primates have evolved the ability transmit important social information through facial expression. In humans and macaque monkeys, socially relevant face processing is accomplished via a distributed cortical and subcortical functional network that includes specialized patches in anterior cingulate cortex and lateral prefrontal cortex, regions usually associated with high-level cognition. It is unclear whether a similar network exists in New World primates, who diverged ~35 million years from Old World primates and have a less elaborated frontal cortex. The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is a small New World primate that is ideally placed to address this question given the complex social repertoire inherent to this species (e.g., observational social learning; imitation; cooperative antiphonal calling). Here, we investigated the existence of a putative high-level face processing network in marmosets by employing ultra-high field (9.4 Tesla) task-based functional MRI (fMRI). We demonstrated that, like Old World primates, marmosets show differential activation in anterior cingulate cortex and lateral prefrontal cortex while they view socially relevant videos of marmoset faces. We corroborate the locations of these frontal regions by demonstrating both functional (via resting-state fMRI) and structural (via cellular-level tracing) 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 Catarrhine. These results give further credence to the marmoset as a viable preclinical modelling species for studying human social disorders.

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