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A human subcortical network underlying social avoidance revealed by risky economic choices

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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e45249 doi: 10.7554/eLife.45249

Abstract

Social interactions have a major impact on well-being. While many individuals actively seek social situations, others avoid them, at great cost to their private and professional life. The neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in social approach or avoidance tendencies are poorly understood. Here we estimated people's subjective value of engaging in a social situation. In each trial, more or less socially anxious participants chose between an interaction with a human partner providing social feedback and a monetary amount. With increasing social anxiety, the subjective value of social engagement decreased; amygdala BOLD response during decision-making and when experiencing social feedback increased; ventral striatum BOLD response to positive social feedback decreased; and connectivity between these regions during decision-making increased. Amygdala response was negatively related to the subjective value of social engagement. These findings suggest a relation between trait social anxiety / social avoidance and activity in a subcortical network during social decision-making.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Johannes Schultz

    Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
    For correspondence
    johannes.schultz@ukbonn.de
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-4117-232X
  2. Tom Willems

    Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Maria Gädeke

    Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Ghada Chakkour

    Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Alexander Franke

    Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Bernd Weber

    Center for Economics and Neuroscience, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. Rene Hurlemann

    Division of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

The authors declare that there was no funding for this work.

Ethics

Human subjects: All subjects gave written informed consent and the ethics committee of the Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn, Germany approved all studies (Approval number: 098/18).

Reviewing Editor

  1. Christian Büchel, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: January 16, 2019
  2. Accepted: July 21, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 22, 2019 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2019, Schultz et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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