Dysfunctional social reinforcement processing in disruptive behavior disorders: An functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Soonjo Hwang, Harma Meffert, Michelle R. Van Tieghem, Stephen Sinclair, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Brigette Vaughan, R. J.R. Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: Prior functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) work has revealed that children/adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs) show dysfunctional reward/non-reward processing of non-social reinforcements in the context of instrumental learning tasks. Neural responsiveness to social reinforcements during instrumental learning, despite the importance of this for socialization, has not yet been previously investigated. Methods: Twenty-nine healthy children/adolescents and 19 children/adolescents with DBDs performed the fMRI social/ non-social reinforcement learning task. Participants responded to random fractal image stimuli and received social and non-social rewards/non-rewards according to their accuracy. Results: Children/adolescents with DBDs showed significantly reduced responses within the caudate and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) to non-social (financial) rewards and social non-rewards (the distress of others). Connectivity analyses revealed that children/adolescents with DBDs have decreased positive functional connectivity between the ventral striatum (VST) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) seeds and the lateral frontal cortex in response to reward relative to non-reward, irrespective of its sociality. In addition, they showed decreased positive connectivity between the vmPFC seed and the amygdala in response to non-reward relative to reward. Conclusion: These data indicate compromised reinforcement processing of both non-social rewards and social non-rewards in children/adolescents with DBDs within core regions for instrumental learning and reinforcement-based decision-making (caudate and PCC). In addition, children/adolescents with DBDs show dysfunctional interactions between the VST, vmPFC, and lateral frontal cortex in response to rewarded instrumental actions potentially reflecting disruptions in attention to rewarded stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-460
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Caudate
  • Disruptive behavior disorder
  • Posterior cingulate cortex
  • Social reward
  • Ventral striatum
  • Ventro-medial prefrontal cortex.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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