A Hedonism Hub in the Human Brain

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Abstract

Human values are abstract ideals that motivate behavior. The motivational nature of human values raises the possibility that they might be underpinned by brain structures that are particularly involved in motivated behavior and reward processing. We hypothesized that variation in subcortical hubs of the reward system and their main connecting pathway, the superolateral medial forebrain bundle (slMFB) is associated with individual value orientation. We conducted Pearson's correlation between the scores of 10 human values and the volumes of 14 subcortical structures and microstructural properties of the medial forebrain bundle in a sample of 87 participants, correcting for multiple comparisons (i.e.,190). We found a positive association between the value that people attach to hedonism and the volume of the left globus pallidus (GP).We then tested whether microstructural parameters (i.e., fractional anisotropy and myelin volume fraction) of the slMFB, which connects with the GP, are also associated to hedonism and found a significant, albeit in an uncorrected level, positive association between the myelin volume fraction within the left slMFB and hedonism scores. This is the first study to elucidate the relationship between the importance people attach to the human value of hedonism and structural variation in reward-related subcortical brain regions.

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