When child molesters at private schools are caught, they often simply leave and go to another such institution. Then, when recognized again for what they are, the pattern is repeated.
Yes, the morally challenged replicate their indignities. In fact, we could say, their morals are in the basement, or even three or four floors below. Recent studies tell us why. One researcher who examines this in depth, Mario F. Mendez from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, suggests that there is a brain neuromoral network that acts as an ethics guide. If it goes awry, moral judgement can be deficient. Unacceptable conduct follows.
This neuro-network is similar to the neuronal processes we use in daily decision-making. The difference is that one or more of the normal pathways has gone amiss. This can occur even before there is any detectable structural evidence in the brain as the abnormality can be simply in neurochemistry or wiring. In more advanced cases, however, the disease becomes widespread with greater destruction and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) studies are positive. One example is frontotemporal dementia. It can develop slowly and insidiously so it is barely detectable although morality might be compromised in this early state. Tumors and other conditions can also be contributors which present as poor judgement and it is only later in the disease that FMRI and other medical tests show concrete evidence of a brain gone awry.
Sociopathy or chronic antisocial behavior also are culprits. They differ from the conditions cited above in that instead of being acquired through a disease that develops later in life, each is at least in part genetic. Therefore, the tendency is present early on and considered developmental. Individuals with sociopathy lack empathy and remorse for their guilty acts. As a result, regret for an unlawful act is diminished.
The reason for this is revealed in laboratory studies. When sociopaths’ emotional responses to unpleasant photos are tested, they differ from controls. Their heart rate, skin conductance, and respirations change little compared to the responses of those without sociopathy. Skin conductance is a measure of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. When it is stimulated, sweat gland activity increases, which in turn enhances skin conductance. Thus, skin conductance is a measure of emotional and sympathetic response.
Sociopaths also have a lesser emotional reaction to the suffering of others as well as a reduced sensitivity to unhappy or frightened expressions. All of this is consistent with the diminished function of the amygdale (or fear center) in sociopaths documented using FMRI.
As a composite, this evidence suggests that there is an inherent disrupted neuromoral network which contributes to lax moral behavior. Examining this condition more thoroughly may give clarity into the role it plays in morally corrupt individuals. Then, therapies could be innovated based on hard science.
Mendez MF. The neurobiology of moral behavior: review and neuropsychiatric implications. CNS Spectr. 2009 Nov;14(11):608-20.ReplyDelete
Morality may be innate to the human brain. This review examines the neurobiological evidence from research involving functional magnetic resonance imaging of normal subjects, developmental sociopathy, acquired sociopathy from brain lesions, and frontotemporal dementia. These studies indicate a "neuromoral" network for responding to moral dilemmas centered in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and its connections, particularly on the right. The neurobiological evidence indicates the existence of automatic "prosocial" mechanisms for identification with others that are part of the moral brain. Patients with disorders involving this moral network have attenuated emotional reactions to the possibility of harming others and may perform sociopathic acts. The existence of this neuromoral system has major clinical implications for the management of patients with dysmoral behavior from brain disorders and for forensic neuropsychiatry.
Mendez MF. What frontotemporal dementia reveals about the neurobiological basis of morality. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):411-8.ReplyDelete
There is evidence that moral behavior is a product of evolution and an innate aspect of the human brain. Functional magnetic resonance studies in normals, investigations of psychopaths, and acquired sociopathy from brain lesions suggest a neurobiology of moral behavior. Reports of sociopathy among patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) have provided a further opportunity to clarify the neurobiology of morality. They confirm a morality network that includes the ventromedial frontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the amygdalae. The right ventromedial region is critical for the emotional tagging of moral situations, the orbitofrontal cortex responds to social cues and mitigates impulsive reactions, and the amygdalae are necessary for threat detection and moral learning. Alterations in moral behavior in FTD may result from a loss of the emotional label of moral dilemmas, coupled with disinhibited responses. More investigations are needed to fully understand how the brain mediates moral or ethical behavior.
Fumagalli M, Priori A. Functional and clinical neuroanatomy of morality. Brain. 2012 Jul;135(Pt 7):2006-21.ReplyDelete
Morality is among the most sophisticated features of human judgement, behaviour and, ultimately, mind. An individual who behaves immorally may violate ethical rules and civil rights, and may threaten others' individual liberty, sometimes becoming violent and aggressive. In recent years, neuroscience has shown a growing interest in human morality, and has advanced our understanding of the cognitive and emotional processes involved in moral decisions, their anatomical substrates and the neurology of abnormal moral behaviour. In this article, we review research findings that have provided a key insight into the functional and clinical neuroanatomy of the brain areas involved in normal and abnormal moral behaviour. The 'moral brain' consists of a large functional network including both cortical and subcortical anatomical structures. Because morality is a complex process, some of these brain structures share their neural circuits with those controlling other behavioural processes, such as emotions and theory of mind. Among the anatomical structures implicated in morality are the frontal, temporal and cingulate cortices. The prefrontal cortex regulates activity in subcortical emotional centres, planning and supervising moral decisions, and when its functionality is altered may lead to impulsive aggression. The temporal lobe is involved in theory of mind and its dysfunction is often implicated in violent psychopathy. The cingulate cortex mediates the conflict between the emotional and the rational components of moral reasoning. Other important structures contributing to moral behaviour include the subcortical nuclei such as the amygdala, hippocampus and basal ganglia. Brain areas participating in moral processing can be influenced also by genetic, endocrine and environmental factors. Hormones can modulate moral behaviour through their effects on the brain. Finally, genetic polymorphisms can predispose to aggressivity and violence, arguing for a genetic-based predisposition to morality. Because abnormal moral behaviour can arise from both functional and structural brain abnormalities that should be diagnosed and treated, the neurology of moral behaviour has potential implications for clinical practice and raises ethical concerns. Last, since research has developed several neuromodulation techniques to improve brain dysfunction (deep brain stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation), knowing more about the 'moral brain' might help to develop novel therapeutic strategies for neurologically based abnormal moral behaviour.
Pascual L, Rodrigues P, Gallardo-Pujol D. How does morality work in the brain? A functional and structural perspective of moral behavior. Front Integr Neurosci.2013 Sep 12;7:65.ReplyDelete
Neural underpinnings of morality are not yet well understood. Researchers in moral neuroscience have tried to find specific structures and processes that shed light on how morality works. Here, we review the main brain areas that have been associated with morality at both structural and functional levels and speculate about how it can be studied. Orbital and ventromedial prefrontal cortices are implicated in emotionally-driven moral decisions, while dorsolateral prefrontal cortex appears to moderate its response. These competing processes may be mediated by the anterior cingulate cortex. Parietal and temporal structures play important roles in the attribution of others' beliefs and intentions. The insular cortex is engaged during empathic processes. Other regions seem to play a more complementary role in morality. Morality is supported not by a single brain circuitry or structure, but by several circuits overlapping with other complex processes. The identification of the core features of morality and moral-related processes is needed. Neuroscience can provide meaningful insights in order to delineate the boundaries of morality in conjunction with moral psychology.
Han H, Chen J, Jeong C, Glover GH. Influence of the cortical midlineReplyDelete
structures on moral emotion and motivation in moral decision-making. Behav Brain Res. 2016 Apr 1;302:237-51.
The present study aims to examine the relationship between the cortical midline structures (CMS), which have been regarded to be associated with selfhood, and moral decision making processes at the neural level. Traditional moral psychological studies have suggested the role of moral self as the moderator of moral cognition, so activity of moral self would present at the neural level. The present study examined the interaction between the CMS and other moral-related regions by conducting psycho-physiological interaction analysis of functional images acquired while 16 subjects were solving moral dilemmas. Furthermore, we performed Granger causality analysis to demonstrate the direction of influences between activities in the regions in moral decision-making. We first demonstrate there are significant positive interactions between two central CMS seed regions-i.e., the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)-and brain regions associated with moral functioning including the cerebellum, brainstem, midbrain, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insula (AI); on the other hand, the posterior insula (PI) showed significant negative interaction with the seed regions. Second, several significant Granger causality was found from CMS to insula regions particularly under the moral-personal condition. Furthermore, significant dominant influence from the AI to PI was reported. Moral psychological implications of these findings are discussed. The present study demonstrated the significant interaction and influence between the CMS and morality-related regions while subject were solving moral dilemmas. Given that, activity in the CMS is significantly involved in human moral functioning.