Can prosocial values improve brain health?

Agustin Ibanez, Diana Matallana, Bruce Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prosocial values play a critical role in promoting care and concern for the well-being of others and prioritizing the common good of society. Evidence from population-based reports, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical studies suggests that these values depend on social cognition processes, such as empathy, deontological moral cognition, moral emotions, and social cooperation. Additionally, indirect evidence suggests that various forms of prosocial behaviors are associated with positive health outcomes at the behavioral, cardiovascular, immune, stress-related, and inflammatory pathways. However, it is unclear whether prosociality can positively influence brain health outcomes. In this perspective, we propose that prosocial values are not only influenced by brain conditions but could also potentially play a role in protecting brain health. We review studies from various fields that support this claim, including recent reports of prosociality-based interventions impacting brain health. We then explore potential multilevel mechanisms, based on the reduction of allostatic overload at behavioral, cardiovascular, immune, stress-related, and inflammatory levels. Finally, we propose potential prosociality-based interventions for improving brain health in at-risk populations, such as psychiatric and neurological patients, and individuals exposed to poverty or violence. Our perspective suggests that prosocial values may play a role in promoting and maintaining healthy brains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1202173
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Allostasis
  • brain health
  • cooperation
  • empathy
  • moral cognition
  • prosocial values
  • prosociality
  • social cognition


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