Abstract

Successful interpersonal interactions rely on an ability to read the emotional states of others and to modulate one's own behavior in response. The actions of others serve as valuable social stimuli in this respect, offering the observer an insight into the actor's emotional state. Social cognition continues to mature throughout adolescence. Here we assess longitudinally the development of functional connectivity during early adolescence within two neural networks implicated in social cognition: one network of brain regions consistently engaged during action observation and another one associated with mentalizing. Using fMRI, we reveal a greater recruitment of the social–emotional network during the observation of angry hand actions in male relative to female adolescents. These findings are discussed in terms of known sex differences in adolescent social behavior.

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