Neuroscience Of Generosity: How The Brain Could Be Wired Into Kindness

First Posted: Dec 29, 2016 04:38 AM EST

Generous people are happy people. As this saying encourages people to be kind, a neuroscience study shows how the brain could be manipulated into making people give more.

The Huffington Post reported that a study published in the journal Social Neuroscience says that the brain could actually be wired to make people nice. By reducing activities in the areas responsible for impulse control, scientists found out that people are likely to be more generous and kind.

Neural pathways could be enhanced or restricted of empathetic feelings, said study's co-author Dr. Marco Lacoboni, a professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles. He added that this treatment could help people with impaired social cognition.

For the study, the team disabled some areas in the participants' prefrontal cortex -- the part of the brain that they believed was in charge of limiting a person's generosity. With the use of the theta-burst Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), the scientists targeted two areas in the prefrontal cortex for 40 seconds.

"Recent research suggests that prosocial outcomes in sharing games arise from prefrontal control of self-maximizing impulses," the researchers wrote. "We used continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) to disrupt the functioning of two prefrontal areas, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC)."

According to results, disabling these specific areas prompted the participants to be 50 percent more generous with the money they were given to distribute among people based on their computer profiles.

"Knocking out these areas appears to free your ability to feel for others," said co-author and neuroscientist Leonardo Christov-Moore from the University of California.

"The cornerstone of social cognition is empathy. So, in principle, by increasing empathy one could increase social cognition in people," Iacoboni explained. You could modulate control areas for social behavior. That would be a big deal."

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