Modulation of value representation by social context in the primate orbitofrontal cortex
João C. B. Azzi, Angela Sirigu, and Jean-René Duhamel
PNAS February 7, 2012 vol. 109 no. 6 2126-2131
Primates depend for their survival on their ability to understand their social environment, and their behavior is often shaped by social circumstances. We report that the orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region involved in motivation and reward, is tuned to social information. Macaque monkeys worked to collect rewards for themselves and two monkey partners. Behaviorally, monkeys discriminated between cues signaling small and large rewards, and between cues signaling rewards to self only and reward to both self and another monkey, with a preference for the former over the latter in both instances. Single neurons recorded during this task encoded the meaning of visual cues that predicted the magnitude of future rewards, as well as the motivational value of rewards obtained in a social context. Furthermore, neuronal activity was found to track momentary social preferences and partner's identity and social rank. The orbitofrontal cortex thus contains key neuronal mechanisms for the evaluation of social information.