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Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Mar;38(3):1233-1248. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23451. Epub 2016 Nov 17.

Neural signatures of trust in reciprocity: A coordinate-based meta-analysis.

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Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany.
Molecular Neuroscience Department, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.
Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.
Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda, Maryland.
Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-1), Research Center Jülich, Jülich, Germany.
Institute of Clinical Neuroscience and Medical Psychology, Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.


Trust in reciprocity (TR) is defined as the risky decision to invest valued resources in another party with the hope of mutual benefit. Several fMRI studies have investigated the neural correlates of TR in one-shot and multiround versions of the investment game (IG). However, an overall characterization of the underlying neural networks remains elusive. Here, a coordinate-based meta-analysis was employed (activation likelihood estimation method, 30 articles) to investigate consistent brain activations in each of the IG stages (i.e., the trust, reciprocity and feedback stage). Results showed consistent activations in the anterior insula (AI) during trust decisions in the one-shot IG and decisions to reciprocate in the multiround IG, likely related to representations of aversive feelings. Moreover, decisions to reciprocate also consistently engaged the intraparietal sulcus, probably involved in evaluations of the reciprocity options. On the contrary, trust decisions in the multiround IG consistently activated the ventral striatum, likely associated with reward prediction error signals. Finally, the dorsal striatum was found consistently recruited during the feedback stage of the multiround IG, likely related to reinforcement learning. In conclusion, our results indicate different neural networks underlying trust, reciprocity, and feedback learning. These findings suggest that although decisions to trust and reciprocate may elicit aversive feelings likely evoked by the uncertainty about the decision outcomes and the pressing requirements of social standards, multiple interactions allow people to build interpersonal trust for cooperation via a learning mechanism by which they arguably learn to distinguish trustworthy from untrustworthy partners. Hum Brain Mapp 38:1233-1248, 2017.


activation likelihood estimation; fMRI; investment game; meta-analysis; reciprocity; social cognition; trust; trust game

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