Neuropsychologia 69:56-66, 2015. PMCID: PMC4344869
For social interactions to be successful, individuals must establish shared mental representations that allow them to reach a common understanding and “get on the same page”. We refer to this process as social coordination. While examples of social coordination are ubiquitous in daily life, relatively little is known about the neuroanatomic basis of this complex behavior. This is particularly true in a language context, as previous studies have used overly complex paradigms to study this. Although traditional views of language processing and the recent interactive-alignment account of conversation focus on peri-Sylvian regions, our model of social coordination predicts prefrontal involvement. To test this hypothesis, we examine the neural basis of social coordination during conversational exchanges in non-aphasic patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration (bvFTD). bvFTD patients show impair-ments in executive function and social comportment due to disease in frontal and anterior temporal regions. To investigate social coordination in bvFTD, we developed a novel language-based task that assesses patients' ability to convey an object's description to a conversational partner. Experimental conditions manipulated the amount of information shared by the participant and the conversational partner, and the associated working memory demands. Our results indicate that, although patients did not have difﬁculty identifying the features of the objects, they did produce descriptions that included insufﬁcient or inappropriate adjectives and thus struggled to communicate effectively. Impaired per-formance was related to gray matter atrophy particularly in medial prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices. Our ﬁndings suggest an important role for non-language brain areas that belong to a large-scale neu-rocognitive network for social coordination.