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      Human fronto-mesolimbic networks guide decisions about charitable donation.

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

      Adult, Altruism, Charities, Choice Behavior, ethics, physiology, Culture, Female, Frontal Lobe, anatomy & histology, Gift Giving, Humans, Limbic System, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Nerve Net, Reward

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          Abstract

          Humans often sacrifice material benefits to endorse or to oppose societal causes based on moral beliefs. Charitable donation behavior, which has been the target of recent experimental economics studies, is an outstanding contemporary manifestation of this ability. Yet the neural bases of this unique aspect of human altruism, which extends beyond interpersonal interactions, remain obscure. In this article, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants anonymously donated to or opposed real charitable organizations related to major societal causes. We show that the mesolimbic reward system is engaged by donations in the same way as when monetary rewards are obtained. Furthermore, medial orbitofrontal-subgenual and lateral orbitofrontal areas, which also play key roles in more primitive mechanisms of social attachment and aversion, specifically mediate decisions to donate or to oppose societal causes. Remarkably, more anterior sectors of the prefrontal cortex are distinctively recruited when altruistic choices prevail over selfish material interests.

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          Most cited references 11

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          The neural basis of altruistic punishment.

          Many people voluntarily incur costs to punish violations of social norms. Evolutionary models and empirical evidence indicate that such altruistic punishment has been a decisive force in the evolution of human cooperation. We used H2 15O positron emission tomography to examine the neural basis for altruistic punishment of defectors in an economic exchange. Subjects could punish defection either symbolically or effectively. Symbolic punishment did not reduce the defector's economic payoff, whereas effective punishment did reduce the payoff. We scanned the subjects' brains while they learned about the defector's abuse of trust and determined the punishment. Effective punishment, as compared with symbolic punishment, activated the dorsal striatum, which has been implicated in the processing of rewards that accrue as a result of goal-directed actions. Moreover, subjects with stronger activations in the dorsal striatum were willing to incur greater costs in order to punish. Our findings support the hypothesis that people derive satisfaction from punishing norm violations and that the activation in the dorsal striatum reflects the anticipated satisfaction from punishing defectors.
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            The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love.

            Romantic and maternal love are highly rewarding experiences. Both are linked to the perpetuation of the species and therefore have a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance. Yet almost nothing is known about their neural correlates in the human. We therefore used fMRI to measure brain activity in mothers while they viewed pictures of their own and of acquainted children, and of their best friend and of acquainted adults as additional controls. The activity specific to maternal attachment was compared to that associated to romantic love described in our earlier study and to the distribution of attachment-mediating neurohormones established by other studies. Both types of attachment activated regions specific to each, as well as overlapping regions in the brain's reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Both deactivated a common set of regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and 'mentalizing', that is, the assessment of other people's intentions and emotions. We conclude that human attachment employs a push-pull mechanism that overcomes social distance by deactivating networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, while it bonds individuals through the involvement of the reward circuitry, explaining the power of love to motivate and exhilarate.
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              Relative reward preference in primate orbitofrontal cortex.

              The orbital part of prefrontal cortex appears to be crucially involved in the motivational control of goal-directed behaviour. Patients with lesions of orbitofrontal cortex show impairments in making decisions about the expected outcome of actions. Monkeys with orbitofrontal lesions respond abnormally to changes in reward expectations and show altered reward preferences. As rewards constitute basic goals of behaviour, we investigated here how neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex of monkeys process information about liquid and food rewards in a typical frontal task, spatial delayed responding. The activity of orbitofrontal neurons increases in response to reward-predicting signals, during the expectation of rewards, and after the receipt of rewards. Neurons discriminate between different rewards, mainly irrespective of the spatial and visual features of reward-predicting stimuli and behavioural reactions. Most reward discriminations reflect the animals' relative preference among the available rewards, as expressed by their choice behaviour, rather than physical reward properties. Thus, neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex appear to process the motivational value of rewarding outcomes of voluntary action.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1073/pnas.0604475103
                1622872
                17030808

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