This project represents an interdisciplinary approach to modeling the neural and physiological dynamics of prosocial behavior. Advances in wireless electronics, wearable sensors, computing power, machine learning, signal processing, robotics, information theory, and neuromorphic engineering combined with innovative behavioral design and social neuroanatomical theory make possible the launch of a novel and integrative effort to model the dynamics underlying prosociality. Leveraging the expertise of our highly collaborative cross-functional team we aim to: (1) characterize the physiological (brain/autonomic) signatures of committing a prosocial act; (2) characterize the physiological signatures of experiencing/receiving a prosocial act; (3) quantify the extent to which the physiological dynamics of the recipient, while experiencing a stressful behavioral epoch, predict their social decisions as the actor; and (4) develop the iRat as an ?ethnodroid?, designed to elicit social behaviors through its own behavior while acting as a videographer in close proximity to the rats. Success in achieving all or even a subset of the target capabilities will demonstrate the power of this innovative approach in a virtually limitless array of medical applications. Results of the proposed project will serve as a game-changing springboard for the development of models of coordination and regulation of the brain and body towards efficacious sociality. The work will provide a foundation for future development of techniques to modulate the system for the purpose of restoring balance, regulation, and prosociality towards improved mental and physical health, in addition to interventions aimed towards preventative health. A byproduct of the work will involve technological advances for measuring physiological signals in a relatively unobtrusive fashion and in the development of contextual robotic tools for assessing social behavior. Such advancements will spur additional research programs. Nationally and Internationally, the development and display of prosocial behavior has been associated with more functional family relationships, with stronger mental health, with higher success in school, with greater physical health, and with better empathic responding. Thus, engaging in the proposed research and understanding the predictive dynamics of the system can allow the development of quantitative metrics for diagnosis, treatment and understanding of stress-related mental health disorders ? that modulate or are modulated by ? social dynamics.

Public Health Relevance

Gaining a formal understanding of the brain and body dynamics underlying prosocial behavior is central to understanding the dysregulation of this system that underlies developmental disorders, social disorders, psychopathology, schizotypal behaviors, and anti-social acts. Thus, it is imporant to develop animal models for the purpose of probing the system and ultimately developing ways to regulate the dynamics in order to restore balance and improve physical and mental health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Ferrante, Michele
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California, San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
United States
Zip Code
Minces, Victor; Pinto, Lucas; Dan, Yang et al. (2017) Cholinergic shaping of neural correlations. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 114:5725-5730