Juízos morais podem ser alterados: basta alterar uma região específica do cérebro

quarta-feira, março 31, 2010

Moral Judgments Can Be Altered: Neuroscientists Influence People’s Moral Judgments by Disrupting Specific Brain Region

ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2010) — MIT neuroscientists have shown they can influence people's moral judgments by disrupting a specific brain region -- a finding that helps reveal how the brain constructs morality.

In a new study, researchers disrupted activity in the right temporo-parietal junction by inducing a current in the brain using a magnetic field applied to the scalp. They found that the subjects' ability to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people's intentions -- for example, a failed murder attempt -- was impaired. (Credit: Graphic by Christine Daniloff)

To make moral judgments about other people, we often need to infer their intentions -- an ability known as "theory of mind." For example, if a hunter shoots his friend while on a hunting trip, we need to know what the hunter was thinking: Was he secretly jealous, or did he mistake his friend for a duck?

Previous studies have shown that a brain region known as the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) is highly active when we think about other people's intentions, thoughts and beliefs. In the new study, the researchers disrupted activity in the right TPJ by inducing a current in the brain using a magnetic field applied to the scalp. They found that the subjects' ability to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people's intentions -- for example, a failed murder attempt -- was impaired.

The researchers, led by Rebecca Saxe, MIT assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences, report their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study offers "striking evidence" that the right TPJ, located at the brain's surface above and behind the right ear, is critical for making moral judgments, says Liane Young, lead author of the paper. It's also startling, since under normal circumstances people are very confident and consistent in these kinds of moral judgments, says Young, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Read more here/Leia mais aqui: Science Daily


The neural basis of the interaction between theory of mind and moral judgment

Liane Young*,†, Fiery Cushman*, Marc Hauser‡, and Rebecca Saxe§

+Author Affiliations

*Department of Psychology and
‡Departments of Psychology, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Biological Anthropology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138; and
§Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 43 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

Edited by Dale Purves, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, and approved April 3, 2007 (received for review February 14, 2007)


Is the basis of criminality an act that causes harm, or an act undertaken with the belief that one will cause harm? The present study takes a cognitive neuroscience approach to investigating how information about an agent's beliefs and an action's consequences contribute to moral judgment. We build on prior developmental evidence showing that these factors contribute differentially to theyoung child's moral judgments coupled with neurobiological evidence suggesting a role for the right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ) in belief attribution. Participants read vignettes in a 2 × 2 design: protagonists produced either a negative or neutral outcome based on the belief that they were causing the negative outcome (“negative” belief) or the neutral outcome (“neutral” belief). The RTPJ showed significant activation above baseline for all four conditions but was modulated by an interaction between belief and outcome. Specifically, the RTPJ response was highest for cases of attempted harm, where protagonists were condemned for actions that they believed would cause harm to others, even though the harm did not occur. The results not only suggest a general role for belief attribution during moral judgment, but also add detail to our understanding of the interaction between these processes at both the neural and behavioral levels.

functional MRI     medial prefrontal cortex     morality    right temporoparietal junction    theory of mind


†To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:lyoung@fas.harvard.edu

Author contributions: L.Y., F.C., M.H., and R.S. designed research; L.Y. and R.S. performed research; L.Y. and R.S. analyzed data; and L.Y., F.C., M.H., and R.S. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/0701408104/DC1.
Abbreviations:RTPJ,right temporoparietal junction;PSC,percent signal change;LTPJ,left temporoparietal junction;PC,precuneus;MPFC,medial prefrontal cortex;dMPFC,dorsal MPFC;mMPFC,middle MPFC;vMPFC,ventral MPFC;ROI,region of interest;IPS,intraparietal sulcus;FEF,frontal eye field.
© 2007 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA


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