The neural correlates of reciprocity are sensitive to prior experience of reciprocity

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Reciprocity is central to human relationships and is strongly influenced by multiple factors including the nature of social exchanges and their attendant emotional reactions. Despite recent advances in the field, the neural processes involved in this modulation of reciprocal behavior by ongoing social interaction are poorly understood. We hypothesized that activity within a discrete set of neural networks including a putative moral cognitive neural network is associated with reciprocity behavior. Nineteen healthy adults underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning while playing the trustee role in the Trust Game. Personality traits and moral development were assessed. Independent component analysis was used to identify task-related functional brain networks and assess their relationship to behavior. The saliency network (insula and anterior cingulate) was positively correlated with reciprocity behavior. A consistent array of brain regions supports the engagement of emotional, self-referential and planning processes during social reciprocity behavior.Graphical abstractHighlightsNon-reciprocity was associated with precentral gyrus and culmen activation.Altruism was associated with lingual gyrus activation.Reciprocity was associated with activity in distinct neural networks.

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