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Séminaire - Raymundo Baez-MendozaNeuronal coding of reward during social interactions

Abstract :

The large majority of primates live in complex social groups. Individuals interact with each other frequently, providing a scope for reciprocity: “You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours”. We need to recognize and remember who scratched our backs to reciprocate.

Likewise, we compare our rewards to what others have. I will describe studies aimed at uncovering the neuronal correlates of whose action produces reward and of reward inequity. I recorded the activity of single neurons in the monkey striatum. In the first study the animals took turns to get rewards for themselves and/or the other player. Behavioural markers suggested that the animals were sensitive to conspecific’s rewards and to whose turn it was.

The activity of striatal neurons distinguished between own and social actions. In the second study a single animal moved to get different amounts of reward for itself and a conspecific. The activity of striatal neurons correlated with reward inequality. These findings show a role of striatal neurons in coding the actor for own reward and in coding reward inequity. 

Selected publications

Báez-Mendoza R, Harris CJ, Schultz W (2013), “Activity of striatal neurons reflects social action and own reward.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110(41):16634-9

Báez-Mendoza R, Schultz W.
The role of the striatum in social behavior.
Front Neurosci. 2013 Dec 10;7:233. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00233. Review.

Scientific focus :

Reward processing in the brain
Our group is interested to relate the mechanics of brain activity to measurable behaviour. We combine behavioural, neurophysiological and neuroimaging (fMRI) methods to investigate the neural mechanisms of learning and economic decision making at the level of single neurons and individual brain structures. We use behavioural concepts from animal learning theory and economic decision theory to study neural reward signals in specific brain regions, including the dopamine system, striatum, orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala. We currently investigate basic reward and risk decision variables, reward prediction errors, learning, irrational decisions and social interactions. more...

Contact: Edgar Soria (edgar.soria @