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Vasopressin increases human risky cooperative behavior

Brunnlieb, Claudia and Nave, Gideon and Camerer, Colin F. and Schosser, Stephan and Vogt, Bodo and Münte, Thomas F. and Heldmann, Marcus (2016) Vasopressin increases human risky cooperative behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113 (8). pp. 2051-2056. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC4776476. doi:10.1073/pnas.1518825113.

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The history of humankind is an epic of cooperation, which is ubiquitous across societies and increasing in scale. Much human cooperation occurs where it is risky to cooperate for mutual benefit because successful cooperation depends on a sufficient level of cooperation by others. Here we show that arginine vasopressin (AVP), a neuropeptide that mediates complex mammalian social behaviors such as pair bonding, social recognition and aggression causally increases humans’ willingness to engage in risky, mutually beneficial cooperation. In two double-blind experiments, male participants received either AVP or placebo intranasally and made decisions with financial consequences in the “Stag hunt” cooperation game. AVP increases humans’ willingness to cooperate. That increase is not due to an increase in the general willingness to bear risks or to altruistically help others. Using functional brain imaging, we show that, when subjects make the risky Stag choice, AVP down-regulates the BOLD signal in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), a risk-integration region, and increases the left dlPFC functional connectivity with the ventral pallidum, an AVP receptor-rich region previously associated with AVP-mediated social reward processing in mammals. These findings show a previously unidentified causal role for AVP in social approach behavior in humans, as established by animal research.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Information CentralArticle
Nave, Gideon0000-0001-6251-5630
Camerer, Colin F.0000-0003-4049-1871
Vogt, Bodo0000-0002-6610-2515
Münte, Thomas F.0000-0001-9843-2124
Heldmann, Marcus0000-0002-8341-7762
Additional Information:© 2016 National Academy of Sciences. Edited by Michael S. Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, and approved January 5, 2016 (received for review September 24, 2015). Published online before print February 8, 2016, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1518825113. This work was supported by a special grant of the Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, Magdeburg (to M.H.), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (T.M.), and the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation (C.F.C. and G.N.). Author contributions: C.B., G.N., C.F.C., S.S., B.V., T.F.M., and M.H. designed research; C.B. performed research; C.B., G.N., C.F.C., B.V., T.F.M., and M.H. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; C.B., G.N., S.S., T.F.M., and M.H. analyzed data; and C.B., G.N., C.F.C., B.V., T.F.M., and M.H. wrote the paper. C.B. and G.N. contributed equally to this work. The authors declare no conflict of interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. This article contains supporting information online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, MagdeburgUNSPECIFIED
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)UNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:vasopressin; intranasal administration; cooperation; fMRI; neuroeconmics
Issue or Number:8
PubMed Central ID:PMC4776476
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160208-124639407
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Claudia Brunnlieb, Gideon Nave, Colin F. Camerer, Stephan Schosser, Bodo Vogt, Thomas F. Münte, and Marcus Heldmann Vasopressin increases human risky cooperative behavior PNAS 2016 113 (8) 2051-2056; published ahead of print February 8, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1518825113
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:64303
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:08 Feb 2016 21:15
Last Modified:10 May 2022 19:40

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