The Neural Responses to Social Cooperation in Gain and Loss Context.

PloS one

PubMedID: 27494142

Sun P, Zheng L, Li L, Guo X, Zhang W, Zheng Y. The Neural Responses to Social Cooperation in Gain and Loss Context. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(8):e0160503.
Cooperation is pervasive and constitutes the core behavioral principle of human social life. Previous studies have revealed that mutual cooperation was reliably correlated with two reward-related brain regions, the ventral striatum and the orbitofrontal cortex. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study sought to investigate how the loss and gain contexts modulated the neural responses to mutual cooperation. Twenty-five female participants were scanned when they played a series of one-shot prisoner's dilemma games in the loss and gain contexts. Specifically, participants and partners independently chose to either cooperate with each other or not, and each was awarded or deprived of (in the gain context or the loss context, respectively) a sum of money which depended upon the interaction of their choices. Behavioral results indicated that participants cooperated in nearly half of the experiment trials and reported higher level of positive emotions for mutual cooperation in both contexts, but they cooperated more in the gain than in the loss context. At the neural level, stronger activities in the orbitofrontal cortex were observed for mutual cooperation compared with the other three outcomes in both contexts, while stronger activation in ventral striatum associated with mutual cooperation was observed in the gain context only. Together, our data indicated that, even in the one-shot interaction under loss context, participants still exhibited preference for cooperation and the rewarding experience from a mutually cooperative social interaction activated the ventral striatum and the orbitofrontal cortex, but the loss context weakened the association between the ventral striatum activation and mutual cooperation.