Dorsolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex track distinct properties of dynamic social behavior.
Understanding how humans make competitive decisions in complex environments is a key goal of decision neuroscience. Typical experimental paradigms constrain behavioral complexity (e.g. choices in discrete-play games), and thus, the underlying neural mechanisms of dynamic social interactions remain incompletely understood. Here, we collected fMRI data while humans played a competitive real-time video game against both human and computer opponents, and then, we used Bayesian non-parametric methods to link behavior to neural mechanisms. Two key cognitive processes characterized behavior in our task: (i) the coupling of one's actions to another's actions (i.e. opponent sensitivity) and (ii) the advantageous timing of a given strategic action. We found that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex displayed selective activation when the subject's actions were highly sensitive to the opponent's actions, whereas activation in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex increased proportionally to the advantageous timing of actions to defeat one's opponent. Moreover, the temporoparietal junction tracked both of these behavioral quantities as well as opponent social identity, indicating a more general role in monitoring other social agents. These results suggest that brain regions that are frequently implicated in social cognition and value-based decision-making also contribute to the strategic tracking of the value of social actions in dynamic, multi-agent contexts.
McDonald, KR; Pearson, JM; Huettel, SA
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