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Brain structure correlates of expected social threat and reward

Crawford, Bonni, Muhlert, Nils, MacDonald, Geoff and Lawrence, Andrew D. ORCID: 2020. Brain structure correlates of expected social threat and reward. Scientific Reports 10 , 18010. 10.1038/s41598-020-74334-z

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Prospection (mentally simulating future events) generates emotionally-charged mental images that guide social decision-making. Positive and negative social expectancies—imagining new social interactions to be rewarding versus threatening—are core components of social approach and avoidance motivation, respectively. Interindividual differences in such positive and negative future-related cognitions may be underpinned by distinct neuroanatomical substrates. Here, we asked 100 healthy adults to vividly imagine themselves in a novel self-relevant event that was ambiguous with regards to possible social acceptance or rejection. During this task we measured participants’ expectancies for social reward (anticipated feelings of social connection) or threat (anticipated feelings of rejection). On a separate day they underwent structural MRI; voxel-based morphometry was used to explore the relation between social reward and threat expectancies and regional grey matter volumes (rGMV). Increased rGMV in key default-network regions involved in prospection, socio-emotional cognition, and subjective valuation, including ventromedial prefrontal cortex, correlated with both higher social reward and lower social threat expectancies. In contrast, social threat expectancies uniquely correlated with rGMV of regions involved in social attention (posterior superior temporal sulcus, pSTS) and interoception (somatosensory cortex). These findings provide novel insight into the neurobiology of future-oriented cognitive-affective processes critical to adaptive social functioning.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
ISSN: 2045-2322
Funders: Wellcome Trust, ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 October 2020
Date of Acceptance: 24 September 2020
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 21:43

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