Neuroscientists explore the brain’s experience of punishment

ScienceNOW Daily News
3 October 2007

Neuroscientists have taken a step closer to a physiological explanation of why some people work and play well with others. Two areas in the brain appear to have key roles in how people conform with social norms…

…To gain insight into this phenomena, a team led by Manfred Spitzer of the University of Ulm in Germany used a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine which areas in the brain were most active in 23 men making decisions that could result in social punishment.

The men were given money and asked to decide how much of it to share with someone else. The men knew that the other person could punish them by reducing some or all of their money if they decided the initial shared amount was unfair. Several areas of the men’s brains were active, but the regions that seemed to be the most involved in how the men made their decisions included the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the researchers report in the 4 October issue of Neuron. These areas, which reside near the front of the brain, have previously been associated with social moral judgments.

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