Research Shows We Can Reduce Violence in Humans With Mild Electric Stimulation of the Brain

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Researchers have published on 3 July in the Journal of Neuroscience the results of their study at the University of Pennsylvania and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. They found that they can stimulate the human brain to reduce violent behavior.

How Does The Experiment Work?

The team of researchers had a double-blind experiment on 86 healthy adults. They stimulated half of the participants’ brains for 20 minutes, focusing on the prefrontal cortex. Then, they asked the group to read two scenarios. One of the scenarios detailed a hypothetical violent physical assault, and the other one a theoretical sexual assault.

After brain stimulation, the scientists asked participants if they would behave like the assaulter in the story. The participants had to answer according to a rating scale.

The results show that participants receiving transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) were 47-70% less likely to carry any of those assaults, compared to the control group.

Transcranial direct current stimulation is a method of applying a two milliAmp current to the prefrontal cortex of the brain for 20 minutes.

“This isn’t a frontal lobotomy” – Adrian Raine

Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania is one of the authors of the study, and believes that this approach could reduce violence and crime:

“When most people think of crime they think bad neighborhoods, poverty, discrimination, and those are all correct. But we also believe that there’s a biological contribution to crime which has been seriously neglected in the past. What this shows is that there could be a new, different approach to try and reduce crime and violence in society.”

The authors explain that the findings are in early stages and they will require more research until they reach a conclusion. However, Raine stated that not just society is to blame for violent behavior in humans and that the brain and genetics have a say in it:

“Research from brain imaging and genetics has also shown that half of the variance in violence can be chalked up to biological factors. We’re trying to find benign biological interventions that society will accept, and transcranial direct-current stimulation is minimal risk. This isn’t a frontal lobotomy.”

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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