Human fronto-mesolimbic networks guide decisions about charitable donation

Jorge Moll, Frank Krueger, Roland Zahn, Matteo Pardini, Ricardo De Oliveira-Souza, Jordan Grafman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

527 Scopus citations

Abstract

Humans often sacrifice material benefits to endorse or to oppose societal causes based on moral beliefs. Charitable donation behavior, which has been the target of recent experimental economics studies, is an outstanding contemporary manifestation of this ability. Yet the neural bases of this unique aspect of human altruism, which extends beyond interpersonal interactions, remain obscure. In this article, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants anonymously donated to or opposed real charitable organizations related to major societal causes. We show that the mesolimbic reward system is engaged by donations in the same way as when monetary rewards are obtained. Furthermore, medial orbitofrontal-subgenual and lateral orbitofrontal areas, which also play key roles in more primitive mechanisms of social attachment and aversion, specifically mediate decisions to donate or to oppose societal causes. Remarkably, more anterior sectors of the prefrontal cortex are distinctively recruited when altruistic choices prevail over selfish material interests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15623-15628
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume103
Issue number42
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 17 2006

Keywords

  • Altruism
  • Brain
  • Moral
  • Reward
  • Social

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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