Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How fair sanctions are orchestrated in the brain

06.10.2011
Scientists from the universities of Zurich and Basel reveal that two frontal regions of the brain need to interact with one another when people punish unfair partners at their own expense. Neuroscientists Thomas Baumgartner and Daria Knoch and economist Ernst Fehr combined a brain stimulation method with a method for measuring brain activity in order to explore this neuronal network. The new findings could also be significant for therapeutic use in psychiatric and forensic patients.

Civilized human cohabitation requires us to respect elementary social norms. We guarantee compliance with these norms with our willingness to punish norm violations – often even at our own expense. This behavior goes against our own economic self-interest and requires us to control our egoistic impulses.

Innovative combination of methods
In collaboration with Professor Ernst Fehr, Dr. Thomas Baumgartner and Professor Daria Knoch reveal the neuronal networks behind self-control in an article recently published in «Nature Neuroscience». For the purposes of their study, they combined the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) method with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Interaction between two frontal brain regions
The results of the study show that people only punish norm violations at their own expense if the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – an important area for control located at the front of the brain – is activated. This control entity must also interact with another frontal region, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, for punishment to occur.

The communication between these two frontal regions of the brain is also interesting in light of earlier fMRI studies, which showed that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex encodes the subjective value of consumer goods and normative behavior. As neuroscientist Thomas Baumgartner explains, it seems plausible that this brain region might also encode the subjective value of a sanction. This value increases through the communication with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. «Using brain stimulation, we were able to demonstrate that the communication between the two brain regions becomes more difficult if the activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is reduced. This in turn makes punishing norm violations at your own expense significantly more difficult.»

Therapeutic benefits
The results could be important in the therapeutic use of the non-invasive brain-stimulation method in psychiatric and forensic patients. Patients who exhibit strong anti-social behavior also frequently display reduced activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain, however, is not directly accessible for non-invasive brain stimulation, as its location is too deep inside the brain. The results of the current study suggest that the activity in this region of the brain could be increased if the activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex were increased with the aid of brain stimulation. «This indirectly induced increase in the activity of the frontal brain regions could help improve prosocial and fair behavior in these patients,» concludes Daria Knoch.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

TMS reduces the excitability of an area of the brain temporarily and painlessly. The researchers used this short-term impairment of an area of the brain to examine subjects' behavior when they had to decide whether to punish a partner’s unfair behavior in a negotiation experiment. TMS enables causal conclusions as to whether a particular area of the brain plays a decisive role in behavior, including whether sanctions will occur. Brain areas often work in a network, however, and rarely in isolation during such a complex process. While fMRI can be used to measure the activity of these networks, the method does not allow any causal conclusions to be drawn. Only a combination of the two methods thus permits the determination of the neuronal networks that play a causal role in sanctioning at one’s own expense.

Literature:
Thomas Baumgartner, Daria Knoch, Philine Hotz, Christoph Eisenegger und Ernst Fehr: Dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortex orchestrate normative choice, in: Nature Neuroscience, 2 October 2011, DOI: 10.1038/nn.2933
Contacts:
Dr. Thomas Baumgartner
Department of Psychology
Social and Affective Neuroscience
University of Basel
Tel.: +41 61 267 02 88
Email: t.baumgartner@unibas.ch
Professor Daria Knoch
Department of Psychology
Social and Affective Neuroscience
University of Basel
Tel.: +41 61 267 02 18
Email: daria.knoch@unibas.ch
Professor Ernst Fehr
Department of Economics
Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research
University of Zurich
Tel.: +41 44 634 37 01
Email: ernst.fehr@econ.uzh.ch
Beat Müller
Media Relations
University of Zurich
Tel.: +41 44 634 44 32
Email: beat.mueller@kommunikation.uzh.ch

Nathalie Huber | idw
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht 3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
16.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

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...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

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...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

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...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>