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Neural correlates of socio-emotional states in macaques

On The June 26, 2017

Mina Jazayeri

Team Director - Jean Rene Duhamel

Abstract :

Most non-human primates live in social environments, where appropriate decisions are believed to contribute to group fitness and seem to be crucial for survival and reproduction. Recent work in non-human primates shows that several brain regions, including prefrontal cortical, limbic and basal ganglia structures are implicated in the processing of motivational and emotional domains, extending to and integrating the social dimension of subjective experiences (Azzi et al., 2012; Báez-Mendoza & Schultz, 2013; Mosher et al., 2014, Chang et al., 2015) In our study we used a decision-making task akin to an iterated dictator game where, based on the monkeys’ choices, positive or negative reinforcements could be delivered to self, another monkey or to nobody. Our previous behavioral results showed that, in terms of both pro-social decision rates and associated measures of social interaction like mutual gaze and eye blink rates, macaques take into account the welfare of their peers even when this has no impact on their own welfare (Ballesta & Duhamel, 2015). While monkeys were performing this task we investigated neuronal activity in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), amygdala (AMY) and anterior insula (AI) by using multiple contact electrodes. We recorded from one monkey at a time or from both simultaneously, as well as from one brain region or from two areas in parallel, as monkeys alternated in making social decisions. Preliminary neuronal findings show distinct populations of neurons responding differentially to outcomes for self and other, and to appetitive and aversive outcomes. Interestingly, information carried by neurons in the amygdala was highly specific and predicted not only outcome recipients and valences but also differentiated between self and other as the agent of social decisions. Together these results suggest that evaluating the social context of decisions about reward and punishment involves different, distributed subsets of neuronal specialization.