Generosity is its Own Reward: The Neural Basis of Representation
26 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 31 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009
In politics specifically and society generally people often make decisions on behalf of others or experience the results of decisions made on their behalf. In exactly what manner is this important class of decisions different from traditional situations in which people make decisions on their own behalf? How are people’s behavioral and thinking patterns altered by shifting from personal to representational decision-making? Previous neuroscience research on the related behaviors of altruistic giving and social reward provide some expectations for brain activation patterns, but to date no work specific to representation has been conducted. We explore the neuroanatomy of representation with set of brain scans (fMRIs), recently completed in cooperation with the Human Neuroimaging Lab at Baylor College of Medicine, that were designed to make it possible to identify any distinct brain activation patterns occurring when representational as opposed to standard (self) decisions are being made. Our preliminary results indicate that activation of the reward processing circuitry of the brain (striatum) in response to reward is very similar regardless of whether subjects are acting for their own benefit or as representatives. What is distinctive in the representation role is the activation of the insula, a brain region previously associated with social tasks and agency.
Keywords: representation, fMRI
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