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Michael Friedlander, Read Montague and others

Feb. 26, 2024

First-in-humans discovery reveals brain chemicals working to influence social behavior

In a study published Feb. 26 in Nature Human Behavior, scientists delve into the world of chemical neuromodulators actions in the human brain, specifically dopamine and serotonin, to reveal their role in social behavior. The research, conducted in Parkinson's disease patients undergoing brain surgery while awake, homed in on the brain’s substantia nigra, a crucial area associated with motor control and reward processing. Led by Virginia Tech computational neuroscientist Read Montague, the international team revealed a previously unknown neurochemical mechanism for a well-known human tendency to make decisions based on social context — people are more likely to accept offers from computers while rejecting identical offers from human players. 

Creating a healthier future. For everyone.

The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC is one of the nation’s fastest-growing academic biomedical research enterprises and a destination for world-class researchers. The institute’s Virginia Tech scientists focus on diseases that are the leading causes of death and suffering in the United States, including brain disorders, heart disease, and cancer. Since its founding in 2010, the research institute has experienced unprecedented growth: doubling its enterprise and lab facilities in Roanoke, while also investing in brand-new laboratories on the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus in Washington, D.C.

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Giving to the Research Institute

Your generous support of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute's rigorous biomedical research enterprise makes a difference for our faculty, students, and patients. Every donation helps accelerate the pace of new discoveries to help patients with cancer, neurological disorders, heart disease, and even rare genetic disorders. Private donations fast-track our progress.