Variability in Brain Structure and Function Reflects Lack of Peer Support

Matthias Schurz, Lucina Q. Uddin, Philipp Kanske, Claus Lamm, Jérôme Sallet, Boris C. Bernhardt, Rogier B. Mars, Danilo Bzdok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans are a highly social species. Complex interactions for mutual support range from helping neighbors to building social welfare institutions. During times of distress or crisis, sharing life experiences within one's social circle is critical for well-being. By translating pattern-learning algorithms to the UK Biobank imaging-genetics cohort (n = ~40 000 participants), we have delineated manifestations of regular social support in multimodal whole-brain measurements. In structural brain variation, we identified characteristic volumetric signatures in the salience and limbic networks for high- versus low-social support individuals. In patterns derived from functional coupling, we also located interindividual differences in social support in action-perception circuits related to binding sensory cues and initiating behavioral responses. In line with our demographic profiling analysis, the uncovered neural substrates have potential implications for loneliness, substance misuse, and resilience to stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4612-4627
Number of pages16
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Bayesian hierarchical modeling
  • machine learning
  • population neuroscience
  • salience network
  • social brain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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