PhD Defence Philip Brandner on September 22nd: Happy for Us not Them: The foundational neural processing of vicarious reward

This morning, September 22nd, Philip Brandner defended his dissertation, titled: Happy for Us not Them: The foundational neural processing of vicarious reward.

Dissertation in short:

Human cooperation is unique in the animal kingdom. We cooperate not only with our close family and friends but also with strangers. One aspect that plays a role in cooperative behavior is how we feel for other people. If they hurt themselves do we feel empathy and compassion? Rarer perhaps, are we happy for them if they experience something positive? We asked ourselves: What happens in the brain when we are happy for others? And secondly, does it matter how close we are to the other person? We investigated these questions in a large group of Dutch adolescents and their parents. What we found is fascinating. Parts of the brain that are responsible for processing rewards activate as strongly when your family members win a reward as it does when you win for yourself. These emotional regions in the brain do not differentiate between your own reward and that of people who are close to you. What about strangers? No activation. The reward centers of the brain already differentiate between Us and Them. Our brains seem to be happy for us, not them.

Well done, Dr. Brandner!!

Proud Promotors: Eveline Crone, Berna Guroglu, Eduard Klapwijk.



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