Mindfulness training increases cooperative decision making in economic exchanges: Evidence from fMRI.
ABSTRACT: Emotions have been shown to exert influences on decision making during economic exchanges. Here we investigate the underlying neural mechanisms of a training regimen which is hypothesized to promote emotional awareness, specifically mindfulness training (MT). We test the hypothesis that MT increases cooperative economic decision making using fMRI in a randomized longitudinal design involving 8weeks of either MT or active control training (CT). We find that MT results in an increased willingness to cooperate indexed by higher acceptance rates to unfair monetary offers in the Ultimatum Game. While controlling for acceptance rates of monetary offers between intervention groups, subjects in the MT and CT groups show differential brain activation patterns. Specifically, a subset of more cooperative MT subjects displays increased activation in the septal region, an area linked to social attachment, which may drive the increased willingness to express cooperative behavior in the MT cohort. Furthermore, MT resulted in attenuated activity in anterior insula compared with the CT group in response to unfair monetary offers post-training, which may suggest that MT enables greater ability to effectively regulate the anterior insula and thereby promotes social cooperation. Finally, functional connectivity analyses show a coupling between the septal region and posterior insula in the MT group, suggesting an integration of interoceptive inputs. Together, these results highlight that MT may be employed in contexts where emotional regulation is required to promote social cooperation.
Project description:Recent research in neuroeconomics suggests that social economic decision-making may be best understood as a dual-systems process, integrating the influence of deliberative and affective subsystems. However, most of this research has focused on young adults and it remains unclear whether our current models extend to healthy aging. To address this question, we investigated the behavioral and neural basis of simple economic decisions in 18 young and 20 older healthy adults. Participants made decisions which involved accepting or rejecting monetary offers from human and non-human (computer) partners in an Ultimatum Game, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The partners' proposals involved splitting an amount of money between the two players, and ranged from $1 to $5 (from a $10 pot). Relative to young adults, older participants expected more equitable offers and rejected moderately unfair offers ($3) to a larger extent. Imaging results revealed that, relative to young participants, older adults had higher activations in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) when receiving unfair offers ($1-$3). Age group moderated the relationship between left DLPFC activation and acceptance rates of unfair offers. In contrast, older adults showed lower activation of bilateral anterior insula in response to unfair offers. No age group difference was observed when participants received fair ($5) offers. These findings suggest that healthy aging may be associated with a stronger reliance on computational areas subserving goal maintenance and rule shifting (DLPFC) during interactive economic decision-making. Consistent with a well-documented "positivity effect", older age may also decrease recruitment of areas involved in emotion processing and integration (anterior insula) in the face of social norm violation.
Project description:Obese adolescents suffer negative social experiences, but no studies have examined whether obesity is associated with dysfunction of the social brain or whether social brain abnormalities relate to disadvantageous traits and social decisions. We aimed at mapping functional activation differences in the brain circuitry of social decision making in adolescents with excess versus normal weight, and at examining whether these separate patterns correlate with reward/punishment sensitivity, disordered eating features, and behavioral decisions. In this fMRI study, 80 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years old were classified in two groups based on age adjusted body mass index (BMI) percentiles: normal weight (n?=?44, BMI percentiles 5th-84th) and excess weight (n?=?36, BMI percentile???85th). Participants were scanned while performing a social decision-making task (ultimatum game) in which they chose to "accept" or "reject" offers to split monetary stakes made by another peer. Offers varied in fairness (Fair vs. Unfair) but in all cases "accepting" meant both players win the money, whereas "rejecting" meant both lose it. We showed that adolescents with excess weight compared to controls display significantly decreased activation of anterior insula, anterior cingulate, and midbrain during decisions about Unfair versus Fair offers. Moreover, excess weight subjects show lower sensitivity to reward and more maturity fears, which correlate with insula activation. Indeed, blunted insula activation accounted for the relationship between maturity fears and acceptance of unfair offers. Excess weight adolescents have diminished activation of brain regions essential for affective tracking of social decision making, which accounts for the association between maturity fears and social decisions.
Project description:Neuroimaging research has demonstrated that ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) encodes value signals that can be modulated by top-down cognitive input such as semantic knowledge, price incentives, and monetary favors suggesting that such biases may have an identified biological basis. It has been hypothesized that mindfulness training (MT) provides one path for gaining control over such top-down influences; yet, there have been no direct tests of this hypothesis. Here, we probe the behavioral and neural effects of MT on value signals in vmPFC in a randomized longitudinal design of 8 weeks of MT on an initially naïve subject cohort. The impact of this within-subject training was assessed using two paradigms: one that employed primary rewards (fruit juice) in a simple conditioning task and another that used a well-validated art-viewing paradigm to test bias of monetary favors on preference. We show that MT behaviorally censors the top-down bias of monetary favors through a measurable influence on value signals in vmPFC. MT also modulates value signals in vmPFC to primary reward delivery. Using a separate cohort of subjects we show that 8 weeks of active control training (ACT) generates the same behavioral impact also through an effect on signals in the vmPFC. Importantly, functional connectivity analyses show that value signals in vmPFC are coupled with bilateral posterior insula in the MT groups in both paradigms, but not in the ACT groups. These results suggest that MT integrates interoceptive input from insular cortex in the context of value computations of both primary and secondary rewards.
Project description:Empirical evidence indicates that people are inequity averse. However, it is unclear whether and how suffering unfairness impacts subsequent behavior. We investigated the consequences of unfair treatment in subsequent interactions with new interaction partners and the associated neural mechanisms. Participants were experimentally manipulated to experience fair or unfair treatment in the ultimatum game (UG), and subsequently, they were given the opportunity to retaliate in the dictator game (DG) in their interactions with players who had not played a role in the previous fair or unfair treatment. The results showed that participants dictated less money to unrelated partners after frequently receiving unfair offers in the previous UG (vs. frequently receiving fair offers in the previous UG), but only when they were first exposed to unfair UG/DG. Stronger activation in the right dorsal anterior insula was found during receiving unfair offers and during the subsequent offer-considering phase. The regional homogeneity (ReHo), a measure of the local synchronization of neighboring voxels in resting-state brain activity, in the left ventral anterior insula and left superior temporal pole was positively correlated with the behavior change. These findings suggest that unfair treatment may encourage a spread of unfairness, and that the anterior insula may be not only engaged in signaling social norm violations, but also recruited in guiding subsequent adaptive behaviors.
Project description:Numerous studies have revealed the key role of social pressure on individuals' decision-making processes. However, the impact of social pressure on unfairness-related decision-making processes remains unclear. In the present study, we investigated how social pressure modulated men's and women's responses in an ultimatum game. Twenty women and eighteen men played the ultimatum game as responders in the scanner, where fair and unfair offers were tendered by proposers acting alone (low pressure) or by proposers endorsed by three supporters (high pressure). Results showed that men rejected more, whereas women accepted more unfair offers in the high versus low pressure context. Neurally, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex activation in women positively predicted their acceptance rate difference between contexts. In men, stronger right anterior insula activation and increased connectivity between right anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex were observed when they receiving unfair offers in the high than low pressure context. Furthermore, more bilateral anterior insula and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activations were found when men rejected (relative to accepted) unfair offers in the high than low pressure context. These findings highlighted gender differences in the modulation of behavioral and neural responses to unfairness by social pressure.
Project description:The neural correlates of rejection in bargaining situations when proposing a fair or unfair offer are not yet well understood. We measured neural responses to rejection and acceptance of monetary offers with event-related potentials (ERPs) in mid-adolescents (14-17 years) and early adults (19-24 years). Participants played multiple rounds of the Ultimatum Game as proposers, dividing coins between themselves and a second player (responder) by making a choice between an unfair distribution (7 coins for proposer and 3 for responder; 7/3) and one of two alternatives: a fair distribution (5/5) or a hyperfair distribution (3/7). Participants mostly made fair offers (5/5) when the alternative was unfair (7/3), but made mostly unfair offers (7/3) when the alternative was hyperfair (3/7). When participants' fair offers (5/5; alternative was 7/3) were rejected this was associated with a larger Medial Frontal Negativity (MFN) compared to acceptance of fair offers and rejection of unfair offers (7/3; alternative was 3/7). Also, the MFN was smaller after acceptance of unfair offers (7/3) compared to rejection. These neural responses did not differ between adults and mid-adolescents, suggesting that the MFN reacts as a neural alarm system to social prediction errors which is already prevalent during adolescence.
Project description:Serotonin (5-HT) has long been implicated in social behavior and impulsivity, but the mechanisms through which it modulates self-control remain unclear. We observed the effects of manipulating 5-HT function on behavior in the ultimatum game, where players must decide whether to accept or reject fair or unfair monetary offers from another player. Participants with depleted 5-HT levels rejected a greater proportion of unfair offers, but not fair offers, without showing changes in mood, fairness judgment, basic reward processing, or response inhibition. Our results suggest that 5-HT plays a critical role in regulating emotion during social decision-making.
Project description:Punishing norm violations is considered an important motive during rejection of unfair offers in the ultimatum game (UG). The present study investigates the impact of the power to punish norm violations on people's responses to unfairness and associated neural correlates. In the UG condition participants had the power to punish norm violations, while an alternate condition, the impunity game (IG), was presented where participants had no power to punish norm violations since rejection only reduced the responder's income to zero. Results showed that unfair offers were rejected more often in UG compared to IG. At the neural level, anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex were more active when participants received and rejected unfair offers in both UG and IG. Moreover, greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity was observed when participants rejected than accepted unfair offers in UG but not in IG. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex activation was higher in UG than IG when unfair offers were accepted as well as when rejecting unfair offers in IG as opposed to UG. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the power to punish norm violations affects not only people's behavioral responses to unfairness but also the neural correlates of the fairness-related social decision-making process.
Project description:Social decision making has recently been evaluated in alcohol use disorder (AUD) using the ultimatum game (UG) task, suggesting a possible deficit in aversive emotion regulation elicited by the unfairness during this task. Despite the relevance to relapse of this possible faulty regulation, the brain correlates of the UG in AUD are unknown.In total, 23 AUD and 27 healthy controls (HC) played three consecutive fMRI runs of the UG, while behavioral and brain responses were recorded.Overall, acceptance rate of unfair offers did not differ between groups, but there was a difference in the rate of behavioral change across runs. We found significant anterior insula (aINS) activation in both groups for both fair and unfair conditions, but only HC showed a trend towards increased activation during unfair vs. fair offers. There were not overall whole-brain between-group significant differences. We found a trend of signal attenuation, instead of an increase, in the aINS for AUD when compared to HC during the third run, which is consistent with our recent findings of selective insula atrophy in AUD.We found differential group temporal dynamics of behavioral response in the UG. The HC group had a low acceptance rate for unfair offers in the first two runs that increased markedly for the third run; whereas the AUD group was consistent in their rejection of unfair offers across the three runs. We found a strong significant decrease in neural response across runs for both groups.This fMRI study of UG in alcohol use disorder found behavioral group differences in acceptance rate across runs, which together with significant BOLD-signal decrease across runs in UG-related regions in both groups, highlights the impairment of strategy in AUD and the effect of repetitive exposure to unfairness in this task.
Project description:Rejections of unfair offers in the ultimatum game (UG) are commonly assumed to reflect negative emotional arousal mediated by the anterior insula and medial prefrontal cortex. We aimed to disentangle those neural mechanisms associated with direct personal involvement ('I have been treated unfairly') from those associated with fairness considerations, such as the wish to discourage unfair behavior or social norm violations ('this person has been treated unfairly'). For this purpose, we used fMRI and asked participants to play the UG as responders either for themselves (myself) or on behalf of another person (third party). Unfair offers were equally often rejected in both conditions. Neuroimaging data revealed a dissociation between the medial prefrontal cortex, specifically associated with rejections in the myself condition, thus confirming its role in self-related emotional responses, and the left anterior insula, associated with rejections in both myself and third-party conditions, suggesting a role in promoting fair behavior also toward third parties. Our data extend the current understanding of the neural substrate of social decision making, by disentangling the structures sensitive to direct emotional involvement of the self from those implicated in pure fairness considerations.