Publication Package for Article 'I am happy for us: Neural processing of vicarious joy when winning for parents versus strangers'
This is the complete Publication Package for the Article: 'I am happy for us: Neural processing of vicarious joy when winning for parents versus strangers'.
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This study investigated the neural processes underlying vicarious joy and their dependence on emotional closeness. Prior studies revealed that the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) is a target brain region for processing rewards for self, but the neural mechanisms of processing rewards for others are not yet well understood. A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm was employed in young adults (N = 30), in combination with a self-report questionnaire on the perceived emotional closeness to the target. We examined the neural correlates of vicarious rewards when winning money for oneself or one of three other targets. To examine family relationships, two of the targets were the mother and father of the participants, and the third target was an unknown stranger. We found an increase in activation in the NAcc when playing for family members compared with a stranger. We further observed a difference in neural activation when winning for the father compared with the mother in an extended network involving the medial prefrontal cortex and precuneus, brain regions involved in mentalizing. These findings were not related to reports of emotional closeness. This new paradigm has considerable value for future research into the fundamental neural processes underlying empathy and vicarious joy.