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Cereb Cortex. 2014 Sep;24(9):2502-11. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht102. Epub 2013 Apr 18.

The role of the posterior temporal and medial prefrontal cortices in mediating learning from romantic interest and rejection.

Author information

  • 1Department of Computation and Neural Systems, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and.
  • 2Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and.
  • 3Department of Computation and Neural Systems, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.

Abstract

Romantic interest or rejection can be powerful incentives not merely for their emotional impact, but for their potential to transform, in a single interaction, what we think we know about another person--or ourselves. Little is known, though, about how the brain computes expectations for, and learns from, real-world romantic signals. In a novel "speed-dating" paradigm, we had participants meet potential romantic partners in a series of 5-min "dates," and decide whether they would be interested in seeing each partner again. Afterward, participants were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging while they were told, for the first time, whether that partner was interested in them or rejected them. Expressions of interest and rejection activated regions previously associated with "mentalizing," including the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) and rostromedial prefrontal cortex (RMPFC); while pSTS responded to differences from the participant's own decision, RMPFC responded to prediction errors from a reinforcement-learning model of personal desirability. Responses in affective regions were also highly sensitive to participants' expectations. Far from being inscrutable, then, responses to romantic expressions seem to involve a quantitative learning process, rooted in distinct sources of expectations, and encoded in neural networks that process both affective value and social beliefs.

KEYWORDS:

posterior superior temporal sulcus; rostromedial prefrontal cortex; social cognition; speed-dating; ventromedial prefrontal cortex

PMID:
23599165
PMCID:
PMC3820469
DOI:
10.1093/cercor/bht102
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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