Social decisions are crucial for the success of individuals and the groups that they comprise. Group members respond vicariously to benefits obtained by others, and impairments in this capacity contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism and sociopathy.
We examined the manner in which neurons in three frontal cortical areas encoded the outcomes of social decisions as monkeys performed a reward-allocation task. Neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) predominantly encoded rewards that were delivered to oneself. Neurons in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg) encoded reward allocations to the other monkey, to oneself or to both. Neurons in the anterior cingulate sulcus (ACCs) signaled reward allocations to the other monkey or to no one.
In this network of received (OFC) and foregone (ACCs) reward signaling, ACCg emerged as an important nexus for the computation of shared experience and social reward. Individual and species-specific variations in social decision-making might result from the relative activation and influence of these areas.