Sunday, March 25, 2007

Science of Mind Study Pierces Media Veil

The LA Times covers a story from scientific researchers, who have been able to work with a few people with damage to the VMPC. As with most studies of its kind, the results are fascinating, raising all kinds of questions about what it means to be human in some ways:

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex [VMPC] processes feelings of empathy, shame, compassion and guilt. Damage to this part of the brain, which occupies a small region in the forehead, causes a diminished capacity for social emotions but leaves logical reasoning intact.

Researchers from USC, the University of Iowa, Harvard University and Caltech posed 50 hypothetical scenarios to six people whose ventromedial prefrontal cortices were damaged by strokes or tumors. Their responses were compared to those given by 12 people without brain damage and 12 others with damage in brain areas that regulate other emotions, such as fear.

...Joshua D. Greene, a Harvard psychologist not involved in the research, said the study showed that moral judgment was shaped by two brain systems — one focused on intuitive emotional responses and another that controlled cognition.

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