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Neuroimage. 2014 Oct 1;99:1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.05.071. Epub 2014 Jun 3.

Effects of social context on feedback-related activity in the human ventral striatum.

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Institute of Medical Psychology and Systems Neuroscience, University of Muenster, Germany.
Institute of Medical Psychology and Systems Neuroscience, University of Muenster, Germany. Electronic address:
Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany.


It is now well established that activation of the ventral striatum (VS) encodes feedback related information, in particular, aspects of feedback validity, reward magnitude, and reward probability. More recent findings also point toward a role of VS in encoding social context of feedback processing. Here, we investigated the effect of social observation on neural correlates of feedback processing. To this end, subjects performed a time estimation task and received positive, negative, or uninformative feedback. In one half of the experiment subjects thought that an experimenter closely monitored their face via a camera. We successfully replicated an elevated VS response to positive relative to negative feedback. Further, our data demonstrate that this reward-related activation of the VS is increased during observation by others. Using uninformative feedback as reference condition, we show that specifically VS activation during positive feedback was modulated by observation manipulation. Our findings support accounts which posit a role of VS in integrating social context into the processing of feedback and, in doing so, signaling its social relevance.


Feedback; Social context; Ventral striatum; fMRI

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