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Spatial gradient in value representation along the medial prefrontal cortex reflects individual differences in prosociality


Sul, Sunhae; Tobler, Philippe N; Hein, Grit; Leiberg, Susanne; Jung, Daehyun; Fehr, Ernst; Kim, Hackjin (2015). Spatial gradient in value representation along the medial prefrontal cortex reflects individual differences in prosociality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(25):7851-7856.

Abstract

Despite the importance of valuing another person’s welfare for prosocial behavior, currently we have only a limited understanding of how these values are represented in the brain and, more importantly, how they give rise to individual variability in prosociality. In the present study, participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a prosocial learning task in which they could choose to benefit themselves and/or another person. Choice behavior indicated that participants valued the welfare of another person, although less so than they valued their own welfare. Neural data revealed a spatial gradient in activity within the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), such that ventral parts predominantly represented self-regarding values and dorsal parts predominantly represented other-regarding values. Importantly, compared with selfish individuals, prosocial individuals showed a more gradual transition from self-regarding to other-regarding value signals in the MPFC and stronger MPFC–striatum coupling when they made choices for another person rather than for themselves. The present study provides evidence of neural markers reflecting individual differences in human prosociality.

Despite the importance of valuing another person’s welfare for prosocial behavior, currently we have only a limited understanding of how these values are represented in the brain and, more importantly, how they give rise to individual variability in prosociality. In the present study, participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a prosocial learning task in which they could choose to benefit themselves and/or another person. Choice behavior indicated that participants valued the welfare of another person, although less so than they valued their own welfare. Neural data revealed a spatial gradient in activity within the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), such that ventral parts predominantly represented self-regarding values and dorsal parts predominantly represented other-regarding values. Importantly, compared with selfish individuals, prosocial individuals showed a more gradual transition from self-regarding to other-regarding value signals in the MPFC and stronger MPFC–striatum coupling when they made choices for another person rather than for themselves. The present study provides evidence of neural markers reflecting individual differences in human prosociality.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Medial prefrontal cortex, striatum, anterior insula, reinforcement learning, computational model
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:09 Jul 2015 09:15
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:16
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1423895112
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-111162

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