From Blame to Punishment: Disrupting Prefrontal Cortex Activity Reveals Norm Enforcement Mechanisms.

Buckholtz JW, Martin JW, Treadway MT, Jan K, Zald DH, Jones O, Marois R
Neuron. 2015 87 (6): 1369-1380

PMID: 26386518 · PMCID: PMC5488876 · DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.08.023

The social welfare provided by cooperation depends on the enforcement of social norms. Determining blameworthiness and assigning a deserved punishment are two cognitive cornerstones of norm enforcement. Although prior work has implicated the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in norm-based judgments, the relative contribution of this region to blameworthiness and punishment decisions remains poorly understood. Here, we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and fMRI to determine the specific role of DLPFC function in norm-enforcement behavior. DLPFC rTMS reduced punishment for wrongful acts without affecting blameworthiness ratings, and fMRI revealed punishment-selective DLPFC recruitment, suggesting that these two facets of norm-based decision making are neurobiologically dissociable. Finally, we show that DLPFC rTMS affects punishment decision making by altering the integration of information about culpability and harm. Together, these findings reveal a selective, causal role for DLPFC in norm enforcement: representational integration of the distinct information streams used to make punishment decisions.

Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

MeSH Terms (12)

Adolescent Adult Female Humans Magnetic Resonance Imaging Male Prefrontal Cortex Punishment Reaction Time Social Norms Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Young Adult

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