Despite a broad continuum of phenotypic variation in behavior, individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) share core deficits in social interaction. Here we propose that social dysfunction in ASD results, in part, from impairments in deriving vicarious reinforcement from others. Observing what happens to others powerfully shapes normal human learning and behavior. Such other-regarding outcomes can drive observational learning, and motivate behaviors such as cooperation, as well as envy. Empathic responses associated with vicarious reward appear early in ontogeny, and their impairment in neuropsychiatric disorders like ASD can have devastating consequences. Understanding and treating social dysfunction in ASD will be advanced by discovering and manipulating the neural mechanisms that derive vicarious reward and punishment from what happens to others. Although brain-imaging studies have revealed some of the neural circuitry mediating social interactions, the neuronal mechanisms underlying vicarious reward remain unknown. We will use our new behavioral model of vicarious reward to determine the underlying neuronal mechanisms, delineate the impacts of network dysfunction due to reversible inactivation of ACC or OFC on vicarious reward and other-regarding behavior, and define the effects of oxytocin (OT), a potential therapeutic intervention for ASD, on behavior and neural function.

Public Health Relevance

Despite a broad continuum of phenotypic variation in behavior, individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) share core deficits in social interaction. Here we propose that social dysfunction in ASD results, in part, from problems in deriving vicarious reward from others. We will use our new animal model of vicarious reward to discover how the brain signals vicarious reward, discover the impact of brain dysfunction on vicarious reward, and test how oxytocin, a potential therapy for ASD, might improve vicarious reward and brain function.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
1R01MH095894-01
Application #
8221150
Study Section
Biobehavioral Regulation, Learning and Ethology Study Section (BRLE)
Program Officer
Rossi, Andrew
Project Start
2012-02-21
Project End
2016-11-30
Budget Start
2012-02-21
Budget End
2012-11-30
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$310,081
Indirect Cost
$110,081
Name
Duke University
Department
Other Basic Sciences
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
044387793
City
Durham
State
NC
Country
United States
Zip Code
27705
Chang, Steve W C; Platt, Michael L (2014) Oxytocin and social cognition in rhesus macaques: implications for understanding and treating human psychopathology. Brain Res 1580:57-68
Chang, Steve W C; Platt, Michael L (2014) Amygdala: eyes wide open. Curr Biol 24:R1000-2
Brent, Lauren J N; Chang, Steve W C; Gariepy, Jean-Francois et al. (2014) The neuroethology of friendship. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1316:1-17
Pearson, John M; Watson, Karli K; Platt, Michael L (2014) Decision making: the neuroethological turn. Neuron 82:950-65
Chang, Steve W C; Gariepy, Jean-Francois; Platt, Michael L (2013) Neuronal reference frames for social decisions in primate frontal cortex. Nat Neurosci 16:243-50
Pearson, John M; Platt, Michael L (2013) Dopamine: burning the candle at both ends. Neuron 79:831-3
Chang, Steve W C; Brent, Lauren J N; Adams, Geoffrey K et al. (2013) Neuroethology of primate social behavior. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110 Suppl 2:10387-94
Gariepy, Jean-Francois; Chang, Steve W C; Platt, Michael L (2013) Brain games: toward a neuroecology of social behavior. Behav Brain Sci 36:424-5
Ebitz, R Becket; Watson, Karli K; Platt, Michael L (2013) Oxytocin blunts social vigilance in the rhesus macaque. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:11630-5