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Neurosci Neuroecon. 2016;5:65-75. doi: 10.2147/NAN.S87718. Epub 2016 Nov 4.

Altruistic behavior: mapping responses in the brain.

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Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA.
Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA.


Altruism is an important social construct related to human relationships and the way many interpersonal and economic decisions are made. Recent progress in social neuroscience research shows that altruism is associated with a specific pattern of brain activity. The tendency to engage in altruistic behaviors is associated with greater activity within limbic regions such as the nucleus accumbens and anterior cingulate cortex in addition to cortical regions such as the medial prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction. Here, we review existing theoretical models of altruism as well as recent empirical neuroimaging research demonstrating how altruism is processed within the brain. This review not only highlights the progress in neuroscience research on altruism but also shows that there exist several open questions that remain unexplored.


altruism; fMRI; social neuroscience

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