APR 08, 2015 02:16 PM PDT

'Moral' Brain May Get Switched Off in Killers

WRITTEN BY: Will Hector
A new study has thrown light on how people can become killers in certain situations, showing how brain activity varies according to whether or not killing is seen as justified.

The study, led by Monash researcher Dr. Pascal Molenberghs, School of Psychological Sciences, is published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Participants in the study played video games in which they imagined themselves to be shooting innocent civilians (unjustified violence) or enemy soldiers (justified violence). Their brain activity was recorded via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they played.

Dr. Molenberghs said the results provided important insights into how people in certain situations, such as war, are able to commit extreme violence against others.

"When participants imagined themselves shooting civilians compared to soldiers, greater activation was found in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), an important brain area involved in making moral decisions," Dr. Molenberghs said.

"The more guilt participants felt about shooting civilians, the greater the response in the lateral OFC. When shooting enemy soldiers, no activation was seen in lateral OFC."

The results show that the neural mechanisms that are typically implicated with harming others become less active when the violence against a particular group is seen as justified.

"The findings show that when a person is responsible for what they see as justified or unjustified violence, they will have different feelings of guilt associated with that -- for the first time we can see how this guilt relates to specific brain activation," Dr Molenberghs said.

The researchers hope to further investigate how people become desensitized to violence and how personality and group membership of both perpetrator and victim influence these processes.

(Source: Monash University; Science Daily)
About the Author
  • Will Hector practices psychotherapy at Heart in Balance Counseling Center in Oakland, California. He has substantial training in Attachment Theory, Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy, Psycho-Physical Therapy, and Formative Psychology. To learn more about his practice, click here: http://www.heartinbalancetherapy.com/will-hector.html
You May Also Like
DEC 20, 2018
Cardiology
DEC 20, 2018
What Happens To Your Brain After Cardiac Arrest?
Only 25 percent of adults will survive an in-hospital cardiac arrest, and even then the damage done to the brain can have lifelong consequences. Plus, out-...
NOV 01, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 01, 2018
How baroreceptors do blood pressure sensing
mechanical changes in the blood vessels is communicated to brain via mechanosensitive Piezo ion channels...
NOV 16, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 16, 2018
Using Light to Control Organ Development
Optogenetics combined genetic engineering with optics to create a way to control cellular behaviors with light....
NOV 19, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 19, 2018
Researchers identify neural pathways that control behavioral responses to noxious stimuli
Behavioral responses to the pain perception could range from reflexive withdrawal to more complex behaviors to avoid or decrease the pain. Neurons in the lateral division of the parabrachial...
DEC 10, 2018
Neuroscience
DEC 10, 2018
Scientist found genes to promote spinal cord regeneration
lay out a path that neurons of the spinal cord might be able to follow - potentially leading to improved recovery for people paralyzed by spinal cord injuries....
DEC 13, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 13, 2018
Insights Into the Mechanisms Underlying Anxiety
Up to 40 million Americans have an anxiety disorder in any given year, and it's thought that only about a third get treatment....
Loading Comments...