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Brain response patterns to economic inequity predict present and future depression indices


Widening economic inequity has been suggested to associate with depression. However, little is known about the underlying neural mechanisms of this link. Here, we demonstrate that functional magnetic resonance imaging activity patterns in the amygdala and hippocampus induced by the inequity between the self and other rewards during an economic game can predict participants’ present and future (measured one year later) depression indices. Such predictions were not possible using participant’s behavioural and socio-economic status measures. These findings suggest that sensitivity to economic inequity has a critical effect on human mood states, and the amygdala and hippocampus play a key role in individual differences in the effect.

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Fig. 1: Tasks and responses.
Fig. 2: Basic brain activity during the ultimatum game.
Fig. 3: Prediction of the present and one-year change in BDI scores.
Fig. 4: Prediction of the present BDI scores from absolute-value inequity responses.


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This work was supported by Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), the Center of Innovation at Osaka University and Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENNHI) (17H06314 and 26242087). We are grateful to S. Tada and T. Haji for technical assistance and P. Karagiannis for editing an early version of the manuscript. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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M.H. and T.Y. designed the study. T.T. conducted the experiment. T.T. and M.H. analysed the data. T.T. and M.H. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Masahiko Haruno.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1–9, Supplementary Tables 1–5, Supplementary Methods

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Tanaka, T., Yamamoto, T. & Haruno, M. Brain response patterns to economic inequity predict present and future depression indices. Nat Hum Behav 1, 748–756 (2017).

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