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Encoding of Vicarious Reward Prediction in Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Relationship with Trait Empathy

Lockwood, PL; Apps, MA; Roiser, JP; Viding, E; (2015) Encoding of Vicarious Reward Prediction in Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Relationship with Trait Empathy. Journal of Neuroscience , 35 (40) pp. 13720-13727. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1703-15.2015. Green open access

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Abstract

Empathy-the capacity to understand and resonate with the experiences of others-can depend on the ability to predict when others are likely to receive rewards. However, although a plethora of research has examined the neural basis of predictions about the likelihood of receiving rewards ourselves, very little is known about the mechanisms that underpin variability in vicarious reward prediction. Human neuroimaging and nonhuman primate studies suggest that a subregion of the anterior cingulate cortex in the gyrus (ACCg) is engaged when others receive rewards. Does the ACCg show specialization for processing predictions about others' rewards and not one's own and does this specialization vary with empathic abilities? We examined hemodynamic responses in the human brain time-locked to cues that were predictive of a high or low probability of a reward either for the subject themselves or another person. We found that the ACCg robustly signaled the likelihood of a reward being delivered to another. In addition, ACCg response significantly covaried with trait emotion contagion, a necessary foundation for empathizing with other individuals. In individuals high in emotion contagion, the ACCg was specialized for processing others' rewards exclusively, but for those low in emotion contagion, this region also responded to information about the subject's own rewards. Our results are the first to show that the ACCg signals probabilistic predictions about rewards for other people and that the substantial individual variability in the degree to which the ACCg is specialized for processing others' rewards is related to trait empathy.

Type: Article
Title: Encoding of Vicarious Reward Prediction in Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Relationship with Trait Empathy
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1703-15.2015
Publisher version: http:/d/x.doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1703-15.2015
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2015 Lockwood et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.
Keywords: anterior cingulate, emotion contagion, empathy, fMRI, reward prediction, social reward
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472714
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