Win for your kin: Neural responses to personal and vicarious rewards when mothers win for their adolescent children

Jochem P. Spaans*, Sarah M. Burke, Sibel Altikulaç, Barbara R. Braams, Zdeňa A. Op De Macks, Eveline A. Crone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Mother-child relationships change considerably in adolescence, but it is not yet understood how mothers experience vicarious rewards for their adolescent children. In the current study, we investigated neural responses of twenty mothers winning and losing money for their best friend and for their adolescent child in a gambling task. During the task, functional neuroimaging data were acquired. We examined the activation patterns when playing for or winning for self, adolescent children and friends in four a-priori selected ROIs (nucleus accumbens, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, precuneus and temporo-parietal junction). Behaviorally, mothers indicated that they experienced most enjoyment when they gained money for their children and that their children deserved to win more, relative to friends and self. At the neural level, nucleus accumbens activity was stronger when winning versus losing. This pattern was not only found when playing for self, but also for friends and children, possibly reflecting the rewarding value of vicarious prosocial gains. In addition, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, precuneus, and temporo-parietal junction were more active when receiving outcomes for children and friends compared to self, possibly reflecting increased recruitment of mentalizing processes. Interestingly, activity in this network was stronger for mothers who indicated that their children and friends deserved to win more. These findings provide initial evidence that vicarious rewards for one’s children are processed similarly as rewards for self, and that activation in social brain regions are related to social closeness.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0198663
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Win for your kin: Neural responses to personal and vicarious rewards when mothers win for their adolescent children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this