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Zapping The Brain Could Lead To Fewer Crimes Down The Road

Jul 04, 2018 09:34 AM EDT
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Brain zapping is not necessarily an acceptable activity, even for hardened criminals. However, a new study reveals that it can potentially help keep violent crime off the streets in the future.
(Photo : Pete Linforth | Pixabay)

Researchers checked to see what happens when one zaps the brain, discovering that it could actually reduce one's intent to commit a violent act significantly.

A new research paper shows that stimulating the brain could have the potential to significantly affect intent and even action of a person.

Studying The Brain

In the study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers show that by stimulating the prefrontal cortex of the brain, a person's intent to carry out a violent act goes down by more than 50 percent. Furthermore, a minimally invasive technique known as transcranial direct-current stimulation was able to boost a person's perception that physical and sexual assault is wrong.

The prefrontal cortex controls complex ideas and behavior. According to Eurekalert, the team chose to focus on this area, specifically the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex because antisocial people have been found with deficits in this particular region.

"One of the main objectives of this study was to see whether there was a causal role of this brain region on antisocial behavior," lead author Olivia Choy of NTU in Singapore explains.

The Experiment And Results

The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Nanyang Technological University chose 81 healthy participants that were 18 years old or older. The ethnically diverse pool of participants consists of an equal number of males and females.

Each one was randomly assigned to one of two different groups. The participants in the first group were stimulated on their prefrontal cortex for 20 minutes, while those in the second group were zapped with a low current for just 30 seconds.

The next day, the participants were presented with two hypothetical scenarios that illustrate physical and sexual assault. They were asked to rate how likely they would perform the same acts on a scale from zero to 10. The subjects were also asked to rate from zero to 10 how morally wrong the activities in the two scenarios are.

Finally, the participants were also presented with a computer-generated image of a doll that represented a partner or close friend. Then, they're told that they could release negative feelings toward the person and the doll by stabbing zero to 51 pins into it. The more pins they choose to use, the more aggressive the action is considered for the study.

The participants who were zapped had a decreased intent of performing physical and sexual assault by 47 and 70 percent, respectively. Notably, there were no significant differences that showed up between the zapped and unzapped group in the doll test.

"The study also suggests that violent thought and action are not wholly preordained by one's brain wiring since they can be influenced by outside inputs," Roy Hamilton of the University of Pennsylvania tells Washington Post.

Hamilton pointed out that the study uses electrical stimulation, but in real life, life experiences can also influence and control the brain's propensity for violence.

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