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, 12 (7), 1118-1127

Salience Network Engagement With the Detection of Morally Laden Information

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Salience Network Engagement With the Detection of Morally Laden Information

Gunes Sevinc et al. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci.

Abstract

Moral cognition is associated with activation of the default network, regions implicated in mentalizing about one's own actions or the intentions of others. Yet little is known about the initial detection of moral information. We examined the neural correlates of moral processing during a narrative completion task, which included an implicit moral salience manipulation. During fMRI scanning, participants read a brief vignette and selected the most semantically congruent sentence from two options to complete the narrative. The options were immoral, moral or neutral statements. RT was fastest for the selection of neutral statements and slowest for immoral statements. Neuroimaging analyses revealed that responses involving morally laden content engaged default and executive control network brain regions including medial and rostral prefrontal cortex, and core regions of the salience network, including anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate. Immoral vs moral conditions additionally engaged the salience network. These results implicate the salience network in the detection of moral information, which may modulate downstream default and frontal control network interactions in the service of complex moral reasoning and decision-making processes. These findings suggest that moral cognition involves both bottom-up and top-down attentional processes, mediated by discrete large-scale brain networks and their interactions.

Keywords: default network; implicit processing; moral cognition; morality; salience network.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
The sequence of stimuli during the semantic association task with an exemplar from each task condition.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Mean reaction times for neutral, moral and immoral task conditions. Reaction time differences were statistically different: *P < 0.01.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Multivariate patterns dissociating moral and immoral from a neutral control condition. (A) Neural activity associated with the moral + immoral (warm colours) > neutral (cool colours, with bootstrap ratio ±2.81, P < 0.005. Neural activity at lag 3 mapped onto the flattened Human PALS-B12 surface-based atlas using Caret5 (Van Essen, 2001, 2005). (B) Temporal brain scores plot. (C) Condition design scores convey the contrast.
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Multivariate patterns dissociating moral from immoral condition. (A) Neural activity associated with the moral (cool colours) > immoral (warm colours), with bootstrap ratio ±2.81, P < 0.005. Neural activity at lag 2 mapped onto the flattened Human PALS-B12 surface-based atlas using Caret5 (Van Essen, 2001, 2005). (B) Temporal brain scores plot. (C) Condition design scores convey the contrast.
Fig. 5
Fig. 5
Moral and Immoral (warm colours) > Neutral (cool colours), BSR ±2.81, Temporal unfolding from lag 1 to lag 5 mapped onto the flattened left hemisphere Human PALS-B12 surface-based atlas using Caret5 (Van Essen, 2001, 2005).
Fig. 6
Fig. 6
Immoral (warm colours) > Moral (cool colours), BSR ±2.81, Temporal unfolding from lag 1 to lag 5 mapped onto the flattened left hemisphere Human PALS-B12 surface-based atlas using Caret5 (Van Essen, 2001, 2005).

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