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Front Hum Neurosci. 2018 Feb 13;12:52. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00052. eCollection 2018.

Perceived Gaze Direction Modulates Neural Processing of Prosocial Decision Making.

Sun D1,2,3,4, Shao R1,2, Wang Z5, Lee TMC1,2,6,7.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Neuropsychology, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.
2
Laboratory of Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.
3
Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, Duke University, Durham, NC, United States.
4
VA Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Durham, NC, United States.
5
Shanghai Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics, Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics, Ministry of Education, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.
6
The State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.
7
Institute of Clinical Neuropsychology, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.

Abstract

Gaze direction is a common social cue implying potential interpersonal interaction. However, little is known about the neural processing of social decision making influenced by perceived gaze direction. Here, we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) method to investigate 27 females when they were engaging in an economic exchange game task during which photos of direct or averted eye gaze were shown. We found that, when averted but not direct gaze was presented, prosocial vs. selfish choices were associated with stronger activations in the right superior temporal gyrus (STG) as well as larger functional couplings between right STG and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Moreover, stronger activations in right STG was associated with quicker actions for making prosocial choice accompanied with averted gaze. The findings suggest that, when the cue implying social contact is absent, the processing of understanding others' intention and the relationship between self and others is more involved for making prosocial than selfish decisions. These findings could advance our understanding of the roles of subtle cues in influencing prosocial decision making, as well as shedding lights on deficient social cue processing and functioning among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

KEYWORDS:

eye gaze; fMRI; posterior cingulate cortex; social decision making; superior temporal gyrus

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