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Title: The role of serotonin in resource management and relationship appraisals
Author: Bilderbeck, Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 2722 0273
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Background. Experiments in both humans and animals indicate a prominent role for serotonin in social behaviour. However, little is known about its role in human group interactions, or cognitions about important social relationships including those with close intimate partners. Methods. I developed resource dilemma games in which participants harvested valuable but depletable resources, independently and as part of a social group. I used these games to explore the neural correlates of group resource management in healthy adults; I also investigated the role of serotonin in resource management using Acute Tryptophan Depletion (A TD) and sub-chronic (8 day) treatment with citalopram. Finally, my experiments investigated how serotonin activity influenced cognitive judgments about other peoples' close intimate relationships and their own relationships. Results. The value of a shared resource was represented in distinct neural structures depending upon the use to which this information was put: within reinforcement-related regions including the ventral striatum while harvesting, but within medial prefrontal regions while considering the harvesting behaviour of social partners. Tryptophan depletion was associated with increased frequency of exhausting a shared resource, lower personal gains, and increased sensitivity to others' past harvesting behaviour relative to personal, past harvesting choice. A TD and citalopram had opposite effects on independent resource management in females, enhancing and diminishing, respectively, sensitivity to recent changes in the resource size when selecting harvests. A TD decreased ratings of intimacy and romance in others' relationships, whilst treatment with citalopram reduced perceptions of others' physical relationship quality, the importance of a good physical relationship, and the importance of intimacy with current partners. Both A TD and citalopram treatment modulated ratings of partners' relative dominance, but differently for men and women. In men, citalopram was also associated with reduced perceived discord in others' relationships. Conclusions. Serotonin plays a significant role in the representation and management of valued resources both individual and group settings. Serotonin activity also supports appraisals of the quality of, and power within, close relationships, and modulates the perceived importance of trusting and intimate aspects of interaction between sexual partners. These findings may be relevant to the pathophysiological bases and pharmacological treatment of depression.
Supervisor: Rogers, Robert ; Cowen, Phil Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available