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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 May;9(5):661-70. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst033. Epub 2013 Mar 19.

Neural evidence for an association between social proficiency and sensitivity to social reward.

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Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstraße 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany.


Data from developmental psychology suggests a link between the growth of socio-emotional competences and the infant's sensitivity to the salience of social stimuli. The aim of the present study was to find evidence for this relationship in healthy adults. Thirty-five participants were recruited based on their score above the 85th or below the 15th percentile of the empathy quotient questionnaire (EQ, Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright, 2004). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to compare neural responses to cues of social and non-social (monetary) reward. When compared to the high-EQ group, the low-EQ group showed reduced activity of the brain s reward system, specifically the right nucleus accumbens, in response to cues predictive of social reward (videos showing gestures of approval)-but increased activation in this area for monetary incentives. Our data provide evidence for a link between self-reported deficits in social proficiency and reduced sensitivity to the motivational salience of positive social stimuli.


NAcc; autism; empathy; social interest; social reward

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