Hugh Pickens writes "Discovery News reports that scientists have identified a region of the brain which appears to control morality and discovered that a powerful magnetic field can scramble the moral center of the brain, impairing volunteers' notion of right and wrong. 'You think of morality as being a really high-level behavior,' says Liane Young, a scientist at MIT and co-author of the article. 'To be able to apply (a magnetic field) to a specific brain region and change people's moral judgments is really astonishing.' Young and her colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to locate an area of the brain just above and behind the right ear known as the right temporo-parietal junction (RTPJ), which other studies had previously related to moral judgments. Volunteers were exposed to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for 25 minutes before reading stories involving morally questionable characters, and being asked to judge their actions. The researchers found that when the RTPJ was disrupted volunteers were more likely to judge actions solely on the basis of whether they caused harm — not whether they were morally wrong in themselves. The scientists didn't permanently remove the subjects' moral sensibilities and on the scientists' seven point scale, the difference was about one point, averaging out to about a 15 percent change, 'but it's still striking to see such a change in such high level behavior as moral decision-making.' Young points out that the study was correlation; their work only links the RTJP, morality, and magnetic fields, but doesn't definitively prove that one causes another."
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