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Oxytocin shapes the neural circuitry of trust and trust adaptation in humans


Baumgartner, Thomas; Heinrichs, Markus; Vonlanthen, Aline; Fischbacher, Urs; Fehr, Ernst (2008). Oxytocin shapes the neural circuitry of trust and trust adaptation in humans. Neuron, 58(4):639-650.

Abstract

Trust and betrayal of trust are ubiquitous in human societies. Recent behavioral evidence shows that the neuropeptide oxytocin increases trust among humans, thus offering a unique chance of gaining a deeper understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying trust and the adaptation to breach of trust. We examined the neural circuitry of trusting behavior by combining the intranasal, double-blind, administration of oxytocin with fMRI. We find that subjects in the oxytocin group show no change in their trusting behavior after they learned that their trust had been breached several times while subjects receiving placebo decrease their trust. This difference in trust adaptation is associated with a specific reduction in activation in the amygdala, the midbrain regions, and the dorsal striatum in subjects receiving oxytocin, suggesting that neural systems mediating fear processing (amygdala and midbrain regions) and behavioral adaptations to feedback information (dorsal striatum) modulate oxytocin’s effect on trust. These findings may help to develop deeper insights into mental disorders such as social phobia and autism, which are characterized by persistent fear or avoidance of social interactions.

Trust and betrayal of trust are ubiquitous in human societies. Recent behavioral evidence shows that the neuropeptide oxytocin increases trust among humans, thus offering a unique chance of gaining a deeper understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying trust and the adaptation to breach of trust. We examined the neural circuitry of trusting behavior by combining the intranasal, double-blind, administration of oxytocin with fMRI. We find that subjects in the oxytocin group show no change in their trusting behavior after they learned that their trust had been breached several times while subjects receiving placebo decrease their trust. This difference in trust adaptation is associated with a specific reduction in activation in the amygdala, the midbrain regions, and the dorsal striatum in subjects receiving oxytocin, suggesting that neural systems mediating fear processing (amygdala and midbrain regions) and behavioral adaptations to feedback information (dorsal striatum) modulate oxytocin’s effect on trust. These findings may help to develop deeper insights into mental disorders such as social phobia and autism, which are characterized by persistent fear or avoidance of social interactions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:22 May 2008
Deposited On:21 Nov 2008 11:13
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:30
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0896-6273
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2008.04.009
PubMed ID:18498743
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-4528

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