Michael L. Platt, a Professor from the University of Pennsylvania
Title: Climate Change an the Social Brain
Abstract: Deeper and more numerous social connections promote, health, well-being, survival, and even financial success. By the same token, social exclusion and the loss of social partners result in feelings similar to physical pain. In my talk, I will discuss our work aimed at defining the biological mechanisms that mediate our ability and desire to connect and the impact of these capacities on resilience. We leverage a unique 13-year field study of thousands of free-ranging rhesus macaques and a biobank including genomic, neuroanatomical, and brain transcriptomic data, collected before and after a major cyclone. We find that monkeys who have more friends are more successful, and show increased gene expression and structural connectivity within the social brain network. Monkeys who lived through the cyclone showed upregulation of aging-related genes in immune and inflammatory pathways. Behaviorally, monkeys responded to the acute and chronic stress of the cyclone by becoming more social and less aggressive. Current work aims to determine whether biological predispositions for social connections shape resilience to climate-induced stressors.