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R. McKell Carter, PhD
Identifying the Distinct Role of the Temporal-Parietal Junction in Predicting Socially Guided Decisions
Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Cognitive Science, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016
To make adaptive decisions in a social context, humans must identify relevant agents in the environment, infer their underlying strategies and motivations, and predict their upcoming actions. In order to identify regions of the brain involved in determining the relevance of a particular agent, Dr. Carter asked participants to play an incentive-compatible poker game against a human opponent during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Spatial patterns in this fMRI data were modeled using combinatorial multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to predict human participants’ subsequent decisions. Brain regions that were particularly predictive of subsequent decisions, regardless of task activation, were identified using a novel independence analysis. Using this analysis, we found that signals from the temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) provided unique information about the nature of the upcoming decision, and that information was specific to decisions against agents who were both social and relevant for future behavior. The sensitivity of TPJ to both social context and perceived relevance highlights a critical role for this region in coordinating behavior in a dynamic, social environment and demonstrates the capacity of behavioral relevance to modify neural signals.