About this Research Topic
The preference for social over nonsocial stimuli occurs very early in life for many species. This bias towards conspecifics may reflect the intrinsically rewarding properties of social engagement. An innate sensitivity to social interactions may provide the foundation for neurocognitive pathways that uniquely shape how reward, specific to the social domain, is processed across the lifespan. However, the neurocognitive pathways implicated in reward processing have largely been tested in non-social domains. This seminal research has demonstrated that hyper- or hypo-responsivity to monetary, drug, or food-based reward is a common feature in many human and animal models of development, substance abuse, risk-taking, and psychopathology. Fewer studies have tested these models in the domain of social reward. Fewer still directly compare neurocognitive mechanisms engaged while processing reward in social and non-social domains, or in distinct social contexts. Methodological constraints and confounds have led to inconsistent results that make it difficult to determine whether the neural mechanisms implicated in reward processing are unique in social and non-social domains. Novel techniques and experimental paradigms have begun to overcome some of these challenges.
The objective of this Research Topic is to bring together state of the art human and animal research aimed at shedding light on the neural mechanisms implicated in processing reward across 1) distinct social outcome modalities or contexts; and/or 2) social vs. non-social outcome modalities or contexts. We encourage empirical reports, reviews, and meta-analyses that highlight specificity or generalizability of effects, and/or demonstrate how individual differences in gender, development (from early to late life), affective processing, or clinically relevant symptoms influence relations between brain function and reward processing.
Keywords: reward, reward outcomes, reward learning, anticipatory reward, reward-based decision-making, social, non-social, peers, friendship, romantic relationships, brain function, brain structure, neurotransmitters, hormones, development, psychopathology, gender, emotion, affect, stress, cognition, animal model, human
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