Oxytocin modulates social value representations in the amygdala

Nat Neurosci. 2019 Apr;22(4):633-641. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0351-1. Epub 2019 Mar 25.


Humans exhibit considerable variation in how they value their own interest relative to the interests of others. Deciphering the neural codes representing potential rewards for self and others is crucial for understanding social decision-making. Here we integrate computational modeling with functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the neural representation of social value and the modulation by oxytocin, a nine-amino acid neuropeptide, in participants evaluating monetary allocations to self and other (self-other allocations). We found that an individual's preferred self-other allocation serves as a reference point for computing the value of potential self-other allocations. In more prosocial participants, amygdala activity encoded a social-value-distance signal; that is, the value dissimilarity between potential and preferred allocations. Intranasal oxytocin administration amplified this amygdala representation and increased prosocial behavior in more individualistic participants but not in more prosocial ones. Our results reveal a neurocomputational mechanism underlying social-value representations and suggest that oxytocin may promote prosociality by modulating social-value representations in the amygdala.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Oxytocin / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception
  • Young Adult


  • Oxytocin