How the brain reacts to social stress (exclusion) - A scoping review

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The Cyberball paradigm is often used to study social stress by exclusion/rejection. We aimed to review the existing neuroimaging literatures in order to provide an overview of the neurophysiological mechanisms of social exclusion.


Literature search was conducted to identify neurophysiological studies that investigated effects of social exclusion on neural activity using the Cyberball game and the relevant influential factors on these effects.


In total, 42 studies using different neuroimaging methods were considered. Regions of the insula, anterior cingulate cortex, temporal and prefrontal cortex were activated to social exclusion. These neural activities were pronounced at latencies ranging from 200 to 400 ms, and between 400 and 900 ms. Influential factors were identified and categorized as intrinsic and extrinsic factors.


An integrated framework describing neural activities under social exclusion in terms of both, temporal and spatial processes is provided. Furthermore, the summary of influential intrinsic and extrinsic factors may help us to understand the diversity of the processes and may guide clinical therapy of stress related disorders.

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