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Differential neural circuitry and self-interest in real vs hypothetical moral decisions.

FeldmanHall O, Dalgleish T, Thompson R, Evans D, Schweizer S, Mobbs D - Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2012)

Bottom Line: We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions.Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices.Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 7EF, UK. Oriel.FeldmanHall@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Classic social psychology studies demonstrate that people can behave in ways that contradict their intentions--especially within the moral domain. We measured brain activity while subjects decided between financial self-benefit (earning money) and preventing physical harm (applying an electric shock) to a confederate under both real and hypothetical conditions. We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions. However, hypothetical and real moral decisions also recruited distinct neural circuitry: hypothetical moral decisions mapped closely onto the imagination network, while real moral decisions elicited activity in the bilateral amygdala and anterior cingulate--areas essential for social and affective processes. Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices. Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

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Dissociable networksfor real selfish and pro-social moral decisions (A) Parametricregression analysis (trial-by-trial) of the Decide event of the Real PvG forincreasingly selfish behaviors (greater Money Kept) activates the dACC, bilateralOFC and bilateral dlPFC. A priori ROIs (indicated by circles and corrected atP < 0.05 FWE) were found to be significantly activated for theseregions. (B) Parametric regression analysis of the Real PvG Decideevent for increasingly pro-social decisions (greater money given up) revealssignificant activation in the rostral ACC/mPFC, right temporal pole and rightanterior insula. An a priori ROI for the rACC corrected atP < 0.05 FWE was found to be significantly activated. All resultsportrayed on both axial sections and rendered images at P < 0.005uncorrected. Both whole brain analysis (P < 0.001 uncorrected)and a priori regions of interest (FWE P < 0.05) were used for allcontrasts. All coordinates in MNI space: a complete list of activated areas andROIs can be found in Tables 6 and7.
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nss069-F3: Dissociable networksfor real selfish and pro-social moral decisions (A) Parametricregression analysis (trial-by-trial) of the Decide event of the Real PvG forincreasingly selfish behaviors (greater Money Kept) activates the dACC, bilateralOFC and bilateral dlPFC. A priori ROIs (indicated by circles and corrected atP < 0.05 FWE) were found to be significantly activated for theseregions. (B) Parametric regression analysis of the Real PvG Decideevent for increasingly pro-social decisions (greater money given up) revealssignificant activation in the rostral ACC/mPFC, right temporal pole and rightanterior insula. An a priori ROI for the rACC corrected atP < 0.05 FWE was found to be significantly activated. All resultsportrayed on both axial sections and rendered images at P < 0.005uncorrected. Both whole brain analysis (P < 0.001 uncorrected)and a priori regions of interest (FWE P < 0.05) were used for allcontrasts. All coordinates in MNI space: a complete list of activated areas andROIs can be found in Tables 6 and7.

Mentions: One strength of the use of multiple trials in the PvG task is that it gives Decidersthe option to either maintain a purely black (keep £20; maximize shocks) or white(keep £0; remove shocks) moral stance, or to position themselves somewhere withinthe moral ‘gray area’(£0 < keep < £20). This not only hasecological validity, reflecting people’s tendency to qualify moral decisions butalso allows us to investigate brain regions associated with different shades of‘moral gray.’ We therefore conducted a parametric regression analysis andfound that increasingly self-interested behavior on the Real PvG task (when Deciderskept more money, parametrically weighted on a scale from 1 to 6) was associated withincreased activity in the dorsal ACC (dACC), bilateral dlPFC and orbital frontal cortex(OFC; Figure 3A; Table 6), regions sensitive to cognitive control (Ochsner and Gross, 2005) reward (Kringelbach, 2005) and, in particular,monetary gain (O’Doherty et al.,2001). Activations associated with decreasing self-interest (pro-socialbehavior) were predominately localized to the mPFC/rostral ACC (rACC), temporal pole andanterior insula (Figure 3B; Table 7; parametric regressions run on theImagine PvG did not reveal any similar regions). Critically, these parametric analysesalso clarified that the activations found during real moral decisions (regardless of thenature of the decision) were not simply an effect of reward classification for monetarygain or loss. Fig. 3


Differential neural circuitry and self-interest in real vs hypothetical moral decisions.

FeldmanHall O, Dalgleish T, Thompson R, Evans D, Schweizer S, Mobbs D - Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2012)

Dissociable networksfor real selfish and pro-social moral decisions (A) Parametricregression analysis (trial-by-trial) of the Decide event of the Real PvG forincreasingly selfish behaviors (greater Money Kept) activates the dACC, bilateralOFC and bilateral dlPFC. A priori ROIs (indicated by circles and corrected atP < 0.05 FWE) were found to be significantly activated for theseregions. (B) Parametric regression analysis of the Real PvG Decideevent for increasingly pro-social decisions (greater money given up) revealssignificant activation in the rostral ACC/mPFC, right temporal pole and rightanterior insula. An a priori ROI for the rACC corrected atP < 0.05 FWE was found to be significantly activated. All resultsportrayed on both axial sections and rendered images at P < 0.005uncorrected. Both whole brain analysis (P < 0.001 uncorrected)and a priori regions of interest (FWE P < 0.05) were used for allcontrasts. All coordinates in MNI space: a complete list of activated areas andROIs can be found in Tables 6 and7.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3475363&req=5

nss069-F3: Dissociable networksfor real selfish and pro-social moral decisions (A) Parametricregression analysis (trial-by-trial) of the Decide event of the Real PvG forincreasingly selfish behaviors (greater Money Kept) activates the dACC, bilateralOFC and bilateral dlPFC. A priori ROIs (indicated by circles and corrected atP < 0.05 FWE) were found to be significantly activated for theseregions. (B) Parametric regression analysis of the Real PvG Decideevent for increasingly pro-social decisions (greater money given up) revealssignificant activation in the rostral ACC/mPFC, right temporal pole and rightanterior insula. An a priori ROI for the rACC corrected atP < 0.05 FWE was found to be significantly activated. All resultsportrayed on both axial sections and rendered images at P < 0.005uncorrected. Both whole brain analysis (P < 0.001 uncorrected)and a priori regions of interest (FWE P < 0.05) were used for allcontrasts. All coordinates in MNI space: a complete list of activated areas andROIs can be found in Tables 6 and7.
Mentions: One strength of the use of multiple trials in the PvG task is that it gives Decidersthe option to either maintain a purely black (keep £20; maximize shocks) or white(keep £0; remove shocks) moral stance, or to position themselves somewhere withinthe moral ‘gray area’(£0 < keep < £20). This not only hasecological validity, reflecting people’s tendency to qualify moral decisions butalso allows us to investigate brain regions associated with different shades of‘moral gray.’ We therefore conducted a parametric regression analysis andfound that increasingly self-interested behavior on the Real PvG task (when Deciderskept more money, parametrically weighted on a scale from 1 to 6) was associated withincreased activity in the dorsal ACC (dACC), bilateral dlPFC and orbital frontal cortex(OFC; Figure 3A; Table 6), regions sensitive to cognitive control (Ochsner and Gross, 2005) reward (Kringelbach, 2005) and, in particular,monetary gain (O’Doherty et al.,2001). Activations associated with decreasing self-interest (pro-socialbehavior) were predominately localized to the mPFC/rostral ACC (rACC), temporal pole andanterior insula (Figure 3B; Table 7; parametric regressions run on theImagine PvG did not reveal any similar regions). Critically, these parametric analysesalso clarified that the activations found during real moral decisions (regardless of thenature of the decision) were not simply an effect of reward classification for monetarygain or loss. Fig. 3

Bottom Line: We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions.Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices.Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 7EF, UK. Oriel.FeldmanHall@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Classic social psychology studies demonstrate that people can behave in ways that contradict their intentions--especially within the moral domain. We measured brain activity while subjects decided between financial self-benefit (earning money) and preventing physical harm (applying an electric shock) to a confederate under both real and hypothetical conditions. We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions. However, hypothetical and real moral decisions also recruited distinct neural circuitry: hypothetical moral decisions mapped closely onto the imagination network, while real moral decisions elicited activity in the bilateral amygdala and anterior cingulate--areas essential for social and affective processes. Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices. Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus