Mapping social reward and punishment processing in the human brain: A voxel-based meta-analysis of neuroimaging findings using the social incentive delay task

D. Martins*, L. Rademacher, A. S. Gabay, R. Taylor, J. A. Richey, D. Smith, K. S. Goerlich, L. Nawijn, H. R. Cremers, R. Wilson, S. Bhattacharyya, Y. Paloyelis

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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    Social rewards or punishments motivate human learning and behaviour, and alterations in the brain circuits involved in the processing of these stimuli have been linked with several neuropsychiatric disorders. However, questions still remain about the exact neural substrates implicated in social reward and punishment processing. Here, we conducted four Anisotropic Effect Size Signed Differential Mapping voxel-based meta-analyses of fMRI studies investigating the neural correlates of the anticipation and receipt of social rewards and punishments using the Social Incentive Delay task. We found that the anticipation of both social rewards and social punishment avoidance recruits a wide network of areas including the basal ganglia, the midbrain, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the supplementary motor area, the anterior insula, the occipital gyms and other frontal, temporal, parietal and cerebellar regions not captured in previous coordinate-based meta-analysis. We identified decreases in the BOLD signal during the anticipation of both social reward and punishment avoidance in regions of the default-mode network that were missed in individual studies likely due to a lack of power. Receipt of social rewards engaged a robust network of brain regions including the ventromedial frontal and orbitofrontal cortices, the anterior cingulate cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus, the occipital cortex and the brainstem, but not the basal ganglia. Receipt of social punishments increased the BOLD signal in the orbitofrontal cortex, superior and inferior frontal gyri, lateral occipital cortex and the insula. In contrast to the receipt of social rewards, we also observed a decrease in the BOLD signal in the basal ganglia in response to the receipt of social punishments. Our results provide a better understanding of the brain circuitry involved in the processing of social rewards and punishment. Furthermore, they can inform hypotheses regarding brain areas where disruption in activity may be associated with dysfunctional social incentive processing during disease

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-17
    Number of pages17
    JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-2021


    • Social incentive delay
    • Social reward
    • Social punishment
    • Anticipation
    • Feedback
    • Anisotropic effect size signed differential mapping

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