Enhancing the ecological validity of translational measures for social functioning

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Animal species express a wide variety of social behaviors throughout life to help shaping brain development and optimal behavioral strategies for survival and successful reproduction. There is considerable evidence that the quality and quantity of social interactions can have significant effects on an individual’s health and well-being: humans and other animals with limited social relationships, or who are socially isolated, have higher rates of mortality and morbidity than those with normal levels of social relations (Cacioppo and Hawkley, 2009; Eisenberger and Cole, 2012; Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010). For example, social withdrawal in neuropsychiatric disorders is an important common symptom that may cause deleterious effects on disease development, progress and outcome. The precise neural circuit mechanisms underlying withdrawal from social engagement are not well understood, but likely involve structural and/or functional changes within key cortical and subcortical brain structures intimately involved in the regulation of a broad range of social behaviors (Ike et al., 2020). In the PRISM project (Kas et al, 2019), an EU funded project through the Innovative Medicine Initiative, quantitative biological markers for social withdrawal and the underlying neurobiological neural circuits have been identified in a trans-diagnostic manner (Saris et al., 2021). Subsequently, animal studies are used to test for causality of these human clinical findings and to expand our knowledge at the mechanistic level. To optimize back-translation of human clinical findings and to provide predictive model systems, human and animal studies should provide homologous, quantitative and biological data. Furthermore, to address ecological validity and to foster relevant biological variation in our study design, we applied real-world digital measures of social behavior in humans (Jongs et al., 2021) and semi-natural observations of rodent social behavior (Peleh et al., 2020).
Event titleDutch Neuroscience Meeting 2022
Event typeConference
LocationTiel, Netherlands