Gray matter volume of the anterior insular cortex
and social networking
Alexander J. Dufford
Edgar E. Coons
Patrick R. Hof
Department of Psychology, Queens College, The City University of New York, New York, New York
Department of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York
School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Peking University, Beijing, China
School of Information Science and Engineering, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, New York
Fishberg Department of Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York
Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York
CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China
Beijing Key Laboratory of Behavior and Mental Health, Peking University, Beijing, China
Jin Fan, Department of Psychology, Queens
College, The City University of New York,
65-30 Kissena Blvd., Queens, NY 11367.
Yanhong Wu, Ph.D., School of Psychologi-
cal and Cognitive Sciences, Peking Univer-
sity, Wusi Road, Haidian, Beijing 100871,
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH);
Grant/Award number: MH094305;
National Natural Science Foundation of
China; Grant/Award numbers: 81328008
(to J.F.), 61690205, 31771205 (to Y.W.),
61210010 and 61632014 (to B.H.);
National Key Basic Research and
Development Program of China; Grant/
Award numbers: 2014CB744600 (to B.H.)
and 2015CB351800 (to Y.W.); Program of
Beijing Municipal Science & Technology
Commission; Grant/Award number:
Z171100000117005 (to B.H.); China
Postdoctoral Science Foundation (to Q.W.)
In human life, social context requires the engagement in complex interactions among individuals as
the dynamics of social networks. The evolution of the brain as the neurological basis of the mind
must be crucial in supporting social networking. Although the relationship between social network-
ing and the amygdala, a small but core region for emotion processing, has been reported, other
structures supporting sophisticated social interactions must be involved and need to be identified.
In this study, we examined the relationship between morphology of the anterior insular cortex
(AIC), a structure involved in basic and high-level cognition, and social networking. Two independ-
ent cohorts of individuals (New York group n 5 50, Beijing group n 5 100) were recruited.
Structural magnetic resonance images were acquired and the social network index (SNI), a compos-
ite measure summarizing an individual’s network diversity, size, and complexity, was measured.
The association between morphological features of the AIC, in addition to amygdala, and the SNI
was examined. Positive correlations between the measures of the volume as well as sulcal depth
of the AIC and the SNI were found in both groups, while a significant positive correlation between
the volume of the amygdala and the SNI was only found in the New York group. The converging
results from the two groups suggest that the AIC supports network-level social interactions.
anterior insular cortex, amygdala, social networking, surface based morphometry, voxel based mor-
phometry, RRID:SCR_014196, RRID:SCR_001847
*Alfredo Spagna, Alexander J. Dufford, Qiong Wu, and Tingting Wu have contributed equally to this study.
The contents of the present article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of funders. The funders had no
role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
J Comp Neurol. 2018;526:1183–1194. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/cne
2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Received: 7 September 2017
Revised: 10 January 2018
Accepted: 11 January 2018
The Journal of