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Value Computations in Ventral Medial Prefrontal Cortex during Charitable Decision Making Incorporate Input from Regions Involved in Social Cognition

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Little is known about the neural networks supporting value computation during complex social decisions. We investigated this question using functional magnetic resonance imaging while subjects made donations to different charities. We found that the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal in ventral medial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) correlated with the subjective value of voluntary donations. Furthermore, the region of the VMPFC identified showed considerable overlap with regions that have been shown to encode for the value of basic rewards at the time of choice, suggesting that it might serve as a common valuation system during decision making. In addition, functional connectivity analyses indicated that the value signal in VMPFC might integrate inputs from networks, including the anterior insula and posterior superior temporal cortex, that are thought to be involved in social cognition.
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... Prosocial helping of varied kinds consistently engages a set of brain regions known as the social cognition network. Comprised of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), mid and superior temporal sulcus, temporal-parietal junction (TPJ), and the precuneus [14,15], this network is activated when considering the mental states, needs, and perspectives of others [16][17][18][19], and the active choice to help them [20][21][22][23]. In contrast, lesions within key regions of this network result in "acquired sociopathy" [24], associated with a loss of both empathy and the withdrawal of compassionate helping [25][26][27]. ...
... This allowed for an ecological assessment of social cognition brain activity without any overt biases of knowing the study's primary motivation which was that of helping choices. Such a design offers an orthogonal approach to examining the neural correlates of prosocial behavior triggered by empathy [20,21] or incentivized donation choices [22,23], by targeting a key foundational process of prosocial behavior: the comprehension and understanding of another's mind [37,39]. ...
... The resulting contrasts were then taken through to a second level, random-effects analysis to assess group-level effects, examined using a paired t test (Sleep Rested < > Sleep Deprived). Analyses focused a priori on activity in a set of brain regions comprising the social cognition network, regions that have been implicated in studies of social cognition and helping behavior [20][21][22][23] Regions of interest (ROIs) were derived using the NeuroSynth framework [98], a largescale automated meta-analysis tool for neuroimaging data. An activation map was calculated from 80 social cognition studies that were corrected for multiple comparisons (FDR < 0.01). ...
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Humans help each other. This fundamental feature of homo sapiens has been one of the most powerful forces sculpting the advent of modern civilizations. But what determines whether humans choose to help one another? Across 3 replicating studies, here, we demonstrate that sleep loss represents one previously unrecognized factor dictating whether humans choose to help each other, observed at 3 different scales (within individuals, across individuals, and across societies). First, at an individual level, 1 night of sleep loss triggers the withdrawal of help from one individual to another. Moreover, fMRI findings revealed that the withdrawal of human helping is associated with deactivation of key nodes within the social cognition brain network that facilitates prosociality. Second, at a group level, ecological night-to-night reductions in sleep across several nights predict corresponding next-day reductions in the choice to help others during day-to-day interactions. Third, at a large-scale national level, we demonstrate that 1 h of lost sleep opportunity, inflicted by the transition to Daylight Saving Time, reduces real-world altruistic helping through the act of donation giving, established through the analysis of over 3 million charitable donations. Therefore, inadequate sleep represents a significant influential force determining whether humans choose to help one another, observable across micro- and macroscopic levels of civilized interaction. The implications of this effect may be non-trivial when considering the essentiality of human helping in the maintenance of cooperative, civil society, combined with the reported decline in sufficient sleep in many first-world nations.
... 5 However, although a plethora of research has probed the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying how people make decisions about whether to donate to charity or share money, much of this work overlooks a key component: effort. [6][7][8][9] In order to behave prosocially, we have to decide whether we are willing to exert effort, and once committed, to energize our actions. 9,10 However, how the brain represents the effort of a prosocial act, and whether this is distinct from self-benefiting acts, is unknown. ...
... The model space tested varied the shape of the discount function (K) of subjective value, of choosing the more effortful option over the rest option (see below: either (a) parabolic (models 1,4,7,10), (b) linear (models 2,5,8,11), or (c) hyperbolic (models 3,6,9,12)). We also tested models with single and separate noise (b) parameters and whether the same or a different discount parameter was needed for self and other (models 1-6 vs. [7][8][9][10][11][12]. This resulted in 12 putative models (3 different discount functions, separate or the same discount parameters for self and other, and separate or the same noise parameters for self and other), as in previous work. ...
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Prosocial behaviors—actions that benefit others—are central to individual and societal well-being. Although the mechanisms underlying the financial and moral costs of prosocial behaviors are increasingly understood, this work has often ignored a key influence on behavior: effort. Many prosocial acts are effortful, and people are averse to the costs of exerting them. However, how the brain encodes effort costs when actions benefit others is unknown. During fMRI, participants completed a decision-making task where they chose in each trial whether to “work” and exert force (30%–70% of maximum grip strength) or “rest” (no effort) for rewards (2–10 credits). Crucially, on separate trials, they made these decisions either to benefit another person or themselves. We used a combination of multivariate representational similarity analysis and model-based univariate analysis to reveal how the costs of prosocial and self-benefiting efforts are processed. Strikingly, we identified a unique neural signature of effort in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg) for prosocial acts, both when choosing to help others and when exerting force to benefit them. This pattern was absent for self-benefiting behaviors. Moreover, stronger, specific representations of prosocial effort in the ACCg were linked to higher levels of empathy and higher subsequent exerted force to benefit others. In contrast, the ventral tegmental area and ventral insula represented value preferentially when choosing for oneself and not for prosocial acts. These findings advance our understanding of the neural mechanisms of prosocial behavior, highlighting the critical role that effort has in the brain circuits that guide helping others.
... In the research by Hare et al. (2010) FMRI study on the neural correlates of average willingness to give reported a positive correlation between activity in the right posterior superior temporal cortex (pSTC) and altruistic tendencies and behaviors. ...
... No areas exhibited a similar correlation during the forced trials; participants have to donate a fixed amount randomly selected between 0 to 100 pounds. A contrast of average activity in free and forced trials showed that several regions including the VMPFC and striatum were more active in free donation trials (Hare et al., 2010) ...
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Altruism as common sense is taken as a granted behavior, where a person acts costly behavior resulting benefit to others – regardless of self. Human altruism is also defined as an intentional and voluntary act performed to benefit another person as the primary motivation and either without a conscious expectation of reward (altruistic approach) or with the conscious or unconscious expectation of reward (pseudo-altruistic approach). Helping professionals are the people working in the field of social work, nursing and psychological services/psychosocial counseling service Mixed method was used to study the presence of real altruism among the helping professionals. 200 samples were taken 100 from general and 100 from helping professions from Kathmandu and Lalitpur of Nepal, through convenient and purposive sampling. SOLAT for brain dominance and Altruistic Personality Scale for Altruism level were used as measuring tools. Six sample from 2 each helping person were done semi-structure interview for qualitative information. Hemispheric dominance on the helping profession and general population show that general population has more right dominance than that of helping professional. Exploring the relationship between altruism and hemisphericity significant negative correlation was obtained between left hemisphere and altruism though no significant correlation with right hemisphere. The qualitative analysis gave an interpretation that altruism is not he pure tendency as defined as altruistic theories rather it’s a reciprocal behavior. Keywords: altruism, hemisphericity, helping profession, brain.
... 6,21,26 Activity in these brain regions is an important neural underpinning of prosocial decision-making. 25,27,28 For example, anterior insula and temporoparietal junction activity has been shown to predict generous donations. 25 Activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex has been shown to increase when donating to charities, and activity in the striatum has been shown to be positively correlated with the frequency of donation. ...
... 25 Activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex has been shown to increase when donating to charities, and activity in the striatum has been shown to be positively correlated with the frequency of donation. 28 Given that individuals with MUD show dysfunction in the brain regions involved in prosocial decision-making, they are likely to make fewer prosocial decisions than healthy individuals. ...
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... These value inputs improved model behavioral flexibility and provided a signal to disambiguate the two strategies based on recent reward patterns (S1A-S1D Fig). Consistent with this modeling assumption, fMRI data of humans performing the same task showed that vmPFC activity correlated with prior belief about outcome value, indicating the availability of such signals in the prefrontal region (S1E and S1F Fig, also see [46,47]). ...
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