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

Nature Human Behaviourvolume 1pages748756 (2017) | Download Citation


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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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.

Author information


  1. Center for Information and Neural Networks, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Osaka 565-0871, Japan

    • Toshiko Tanaka
    •  & Masahiko Haruno
  2. Brain Science Institute, Tamagawa University, Tokyo 194-8610, Japan

    • Toshiko Tanaka
    •  & Masahiko Haruno
  3. NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), Tokyo 150-8001, Japan

    • Takao Yamamoto


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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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Masahiko Haruno.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Information

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

  2. Life Sciences Reporting Summary and Reporting Summary for MRI studies

    Life Science Reporting Summary and Reporting Summary for MRI

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