Monday, December 24, 2007

Neural correlates of trust

Krueger et al. offer an MRI study of brain changes that occur during a reciprocal trust game. They:
.used hyperfunctional magnetic resonance imaging, in which two strangers interacted online with one another in a sequential reciprocal trust game while their brains were simultaneously scanned. By designing a nonanonymous, alternating multiround game, trust became bidirectional, and we were able to quantify partnership building and maintenance...We show that the paracingulate cortex is critically involved in building a trust relationship by inferring another person's intentions to predict subsequent behavior. This more recently evolved brain region can be differently engaged to interact with more primitive neural systems in maintaining conditional and unconditional trust in a partnership. Conditional trust selectively activated the ventral tegmental area, a region linked to the evaluation of expected and realized reward, whereas unconditional trust selectively activated the septal area, a region linked to social attachment behavior. The interplay of these neural systems supports reciprocal exchange that operates beyond the immediate spheres of kinship, one of the distinguishing features of the human species.

Figure - Brain responses for decisions to trust. (a) Trust building. Decisions to trust contrasted with the control condition activated the PcC (Brodmann's areas, BA 9/32). (b) Trust maintenance. Decisions to trust contrasted with the control condition activated the SA (together with the adjoining hypothalamus)

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