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Neuropsychologia. 2010 Oct;48(12):3505-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.07.036. Epub 2010 Aug 4.

The role of ventral medial prefrontal cortex in social decisions: converging evidence from fMRI and frontotemporal lobar degeneration.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4283, USA.


The ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) has been implicated in social and affectively influenced decision-making. Disease in this region may have clinical consequences for social judgments in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). To test this hypothesis, regional cortical activation was monitored with fMRI while healthy adults judged the acceptability of brief social scenarios such as cutting into a movie ticket line or going through a red light at 2 AM. The scenarios described: (i) a socially neutral condition, (ii) a variant of each scenario containing a negatively valenced feature, and (iii) a variant containing a positively valenced feature. Results revealed that healthy adults activated vmPFC during judgments of negatively valenced scenarios relative to positive scenarios and neutral scenarios. In a comparative behavioral study, the same social decision-making paradigm was administered to patients with a social disorder due to FTLD. Patients differed significantly from healthy controls, specifically showing less sensitivity to negatively valenced features. Comparative anatomical analysis revealed considerable overlap of vmPFC activation in healthy adults and vmPFC cortical atrophy in FTLD patients. These converging results support the role of vmPFC in social decision-making where potentially negative consequences must be considered.

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