The subcortex as a trainer for cortical automaticity

Orit Nafcha, Shai Gabay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The need to cope in a complex social environment has been suggested as the reason for the evolutionary development of our large brains. In contrast to this claim, growing evidence suggests that having a cortex is not a necessary condition for demonstrating prosocial behavior. Here, we suggest examining this issue through theoretical perspectives considering the relations between subcortical and cortical mechanisms. According to Ashby et al., (2007)'s SPEED (Subcortical Pathways Enable Expertise Development) model, the development of automaticity is characterized by a transfer of control from subcortical regions to faster cortical–cortical projections. Thus, subcortical regions may be perceived as trainers for the cortex. We apply this model to the social domain, suggesting that the automaticity associated with social processes begins in subcortical regions that direct attention to relevant events, allowing cortical regions to take control. We discuss this perspective in the context of face perception, prosociality, and social deficit disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101371
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
StatePublished - Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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