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Distinct neural correlates of social and object reward seeking motivation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Indu Dubey, Alexandra Georgescu, Maximilian Hommelsen, Kai Vogeley, Danielle Ropar, Antonia Hamilton

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4214-4229
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
Published1 Nov 2020

King's Authors


The “Choose‐a‐Movie‐CAM” is an established task to quantify the motivation for seeking social rewards. It allows participants to directly assess both the stimulus value and the effort required to obtain it. In the present study, we aimed to identify the neural mechanisms of such cost‐benefit decision‐making. To this end, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging data were collected from 24 typical adults while they completed the CAM task. We partly replicated the results from our previous behavioural studies showing that typical adults prefer social over object stimuli and low effort over higher effort stimuli but found no interaction between the two. Results from neuroimaging data suggest that there are distinct neural correlates for social and object preferences. The precuneus and medial orbitofrontal cortex, two key areas involved in social processing are engaged when participants make a social choice. Areas of the ventral and dorsal stream pathways associated with object recognition are engaged when making an object choice. These activations can be seen during the decision phase even before the rewards have been consumed, indicating a transfer the hedonic properties of social stimuli to its cues. We also found that the left insula and bilateral clusters in the inferior occipital gyrus and the inferior parietal lobule were recruited for increasing effort investment. We discuss limitations and implications of this study which reveals the distinct neural correlates for social and object rewards, using a robust behavioural measure of social motivation.

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