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
SEP 10, 2018
Neuroscience
SEP 10, 2018
Can Scientists Mimic The Effect of Exercise to Improve Memory?
Dementia is a growing problem for healthcare providers, patients, and families. The WHO estimates that globally more than 47 million people are living with...
OCT 29, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 29, 2018
Did we get blindsided about the role of cerebellum?
Cerebellum play a mjor role in higher -order brain functions beyond the motor specific functioning...
OCT 31, 2018
Health & Medicine
OCT 31, 2018
Small Animal Phobia and Virtual reality
Using digital technology for effective treatment of small animal phobia...
OCT 31, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 31, 2018
Study Suggests Extinct Elephant Birds Were Nocturnal and Nearly Blind
Elephant birds were massive birds that went extinct a long time ago. Some estimates suggest the last of the species perished some 500 to 1,000 years ago, b...
NOV 03, 2018
Technology
NOV 03, 2018
Neurotechnology Treats Paralysis
The latest study at the intersection of technology and neuroscience is the STIMO (STImulation Movement Overground) study, which has established the ne...
NOV 18, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 18, 2018
How does the brain know when we are full?
Feeling full or satiation is conveyed to the brain by the gut hormones via the enteric neuronal afferents and the endocrine feedback pathways....
Loading Comments...