Monday, July 27, 2015

Brain markers of individual differences in human prosociality.

Sul et al. make the fascinating observation that self-regarding and other-regarding regions of the medial prefrontal cortex show greater segregation in selfish individuals and more overlap in prosocial individuals.
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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