When economic theory meets the mind: neuroeconomics as a new approach to psychopathology

Quando la teoria economica incontra la mente: la neuroeconomia come nuovo approccio alla psicopatologia

I. Riccardi, P. Stratta, A. Rossi

Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L’Aquila, Italy


The paper describes the current status of the new interdisciplinary research field of neuroeconomics in relation to psychopathology, giving an account of possible clinical implications for social dysfunction. This is achievable because neuroeconomics join economics, psychology, neuroscience and computational science in order to gain a greater understanding of people decision making. Recent research are using these tasks in association with neuroimaging in order to understand existing discrepancy between the theoretical models and experimental data and to gain more details on the ways people decide and judge within the social context. We report how neuroeconomics paradigms have been recently used to study social interaction in different mental disease conditions such as in borderline personality disorder, externalizing behavior problems, depression, social anxiety, psychopathy, autism and, more recently, psychosis.

Furthermore the paper aims to point out a new set of tools from Economics Theory able to gather human interaction ‘in vivo’ in a computable way. The challenge of neuroeconomics may be to bring a broad set of tools letting new knowledge on neural computation of social interaction and, extensively, on mental diseases where the social impairment is a core feature.

In conclusion the paper speculates that neuroeconomics is a potential bridge for translational research in psychopathology as it allows to get an objective evaluation of the interpersonal behaviors in a shifting social environment and to combine behavioral with neuroimaging measures, as tools to investigate relationship between neurobiology and behavior.

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