Friday, July 30, 2010

Reciprocity engages our brain's reward system.

Interesting stuff from Phan et al:
Brain reward circuitry, including ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex, has been independently implicated in preferences for fair and cooperative outcomes as well as learning of reputations. Using functional MRI (fMRI) and a “trust game” task involving iterative exchanges with fictive partners who acquire different reputations for reciprocity, we measured brain responses in 36 healthy adults when positive actions (entrust investment to partners) yield positive returns (reciprocity) and how these brain responses are modulated by partner reputation for repayment. Here we show that positive reciprocity robustly engages the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex. Moreover, this signal of reciprocity in the ventral striatum appears selectively in response to partners who have consistently returned the investment (e.g., a reputation for reciprocity) and is absent for partners who lack a reputation for reciprocity. These findings elucidate a fundamental brain mechanism, via reward-related neural substrates, by which human cooperative relationships are initiated and sustained.

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