Conserved features of anterior cingulate networks support observational learning across species

Anthony Burgos-Robles, Katalin M. Gothard, Marie H. Monfils, Alexei Morozov, Aleksandra Vicentic

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The ability to observe, interpret, and learn behaviors and emotions from conspecifics is crucial for survival, as it bypasses direct experience to avoid potential dangers and maximize rewards and benefits. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and its extended neural connections are emerging as important networks for the detection, encoding, and interpretation of social signals during observational learning. Evidence from rodents and primates (including humans) suggests that the social interactions that occur while individuals are exposed to important information in their environment lead to transfer of information across individuals that promotes adaptive behaviors in the form of either social affiliation, alertness, or avoidance. In this review, we first showcase anatomical and functional connections of the ACC in primates and rodents that contribute to the perception of social signals. We then discuss species-specific cognitive and social functions of the ACC and differentiate between neural activity related to ‘self’ and ‘other’, extending into the difference between social signals received and processed by the self, versus observing social interactions among others. We next describe behavioral and neural events that contribute to social learning via observation. Finally, we discuss some of the neural mechanisms underlying observational learning within the ACC and its extended network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-228
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Amygdala
  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Empathy
  • Facial expression
  • Fear conditioning by proxy
  • Fear learning
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Primates
  • Rodents
  • Social cues
  • Social dominance
  • Social learning
  • Social transmission
  • Vicarious learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Conserved features of anterior cingulate networks support observational learning across species'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this