Dr Roland Zahn, a clinical neuroscientist in The University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, and his colleagues have identified how the brain links knowledge about social behaviour with moral sentiments, such as pride and guilt.
The study, carried out at the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US with Dr Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section, and Dr Jorge Moll, now at the LABS-D'Or Center for Neuroscience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 29 healthy individuals while they considered certain social behaviours.
The findings – published in the journal Cerebral Cortex – for the first time chart the regions of the brain that interact to link knowledge about socially appropriate behaviour with different moral feelings, depending on the context in which the social behaviour occurs.
“During everyday life we constantly evaluate social behaviour and this largely affects how we feel about ourselves and other people,” said Dr Zahn. “But the way we store and use information about our own and other people’s social behaviour are not well understood.
“This latest study used functional brain imaging to identify the circuits in the brain that underpin our ability to differentiate social behaviour that conforms to our values from behaviour that does not.”
The team observed that social behaviour not conforming to an individual’s values evoked feelings of anger when carried out by another person or feelings of guilt when the behaviour stemmed from the individuals themselves.
The fMRI scans of each volunteer could then be analysed to see which parts of the brain were activated for the different types of feeling being expressed. Of particular interest to Dr Zahn were the brain scans relating to feelings of guilt, as these have particular relevance to his current work on depression.
“The most distinctive feature of depressive disorders is an exaggerated negative attitude to oneself, which is typically accompanied by feelings of guilt,” he said.
“Now that we understand how the brains of healthy individuals respond to feelings of guilt, we hope to be able to better understand why and where there are differences in brain activity in people suffering from, or prone to, depression.
“The brain region we have identified to be associated with proneness to guilt has been shown to be abnormally active in patients with severe depression in several previous studies, but until now its involvement in guilt had been unknown."
“By translating these basic cognitive neuroscience insights into clinical research we now have the potential to discover new key functional anatomical characteristics of the brain that may lie behind depressive disorders.
“The results will hopefully make an important contribution to our understanding of the causes of depression that will ultimately allow new approaches to find better treatments and prevention.”
The current clinical study, being carried out with professors Matthew Lambon-Ralph, Bill Deakin and Alistair Burns at The University of Manchester, will last four years.
Aeron Haworth | alfa
WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology