APR 08, 2015 2:16 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
NOV 19, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 19, 2019
New Insight Into Chronic Pain May Help Create Novel Therapeutics
Acute pain can progress to chronic pain, which can cause other problems including depression, loss of motivation and sensory dysfunction....
DEC 09, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 09, 2019
Newly IDed Biomarker Can Predict Compulsive Drinking
Lots of people drink alcohol, but not everyone develops a drinking problem. Researchers are starting to learn more about why that is....
DEC 11, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 11, 2019
Drug Candidates for Alzheimer Disease May Reverse Effects of Aging
Researchers using mouse models of Alzheimer disease were able to demonstrate that the investigational drug candidates ‘CMS121’ and ‘J147&...
JAN 17, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 17, 2020
Fewer Connections Between Brain Cells for Schizophrenia
Approximately 1% of the world’s population have schizophrenia, with 3.2 million Americans having the disorder. Now, for the first time, advanced brai...
JAN 21, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 21, 2020
Another Study Links Aluminum Exposure to Alzheimer's Disease
A new study, published earlier this week in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, supports a 40-year theory suggesting an association between human exp...
FEB 13, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 13, 2020
Study of Early-Onset Parkinson's Reveals Potential Therapeutic
Around 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year, and the rate of the disease is rising....
Loading Comments...