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Cognitive scientists have revealed a variety of psychological correlates (e.g. Adelstein 2011, Deyoung 2010) and biological correlates (e.g. Feldmanhall et al 2012, Glenn et al 2009, Harris et al 2009, Hsu et al 2005, Kahane et al 2012, Stern et al 2010) of various self-reported beliefs and judgments. It is perhaps most common to find articles reporting on political beliefs and judgments (e.g. Amodio et al 2007, Hatemi et al 2012, Kanai et al 2011, Jost et al 2007). This paper sets out to show that other types of judgments and belief are worthy of study, namely philosophers judgments and beliefs. The general hypothesis is that variations in neurobiology will correlate with and even predict variations in one’s proclivity towards or aversion to particular philosophical beliefs and judgments. I outline a few specific examples of this kind of hypothesis based on extant findings, explain the value of testing these hypotheses, provide two general ways to design the experiments, and discuss a few philosophical and methodological concerns about the project.
We measured the game behavior and analytic reasoning skills of expert strategic reasoners: professional GO players. We argue for a distinction between what we call "strategic" and "analytic" reasoning skills and present separate measures to elicit strategic and analytic abilities. The paper investigates the behavior of our subject pool in many different types of one-shot games, including the Traveler's Dilemma, Centipede, Kreps, and Matching Pennies games. We observe that increased strategic skill predicts a greater probability of Nash behavior, while greater analytic skill predicts more efficient (cooperative) play, even when such behavior is inconsistent with individual rationality.
Some decisions are made after obtaining several pieces of information, whereas others are reached quickly. Such differences may depend on the quality of information acquired, as well as individual variability in how cautiously evidence is evaluated. The current study examined neural activity while subjects accumulated sequential pieces of evidence and then made a decision. Uncertainty was updated with each piece of evidence, with individual ratings of subjective uncertainty characterizing underconfidence when observing evidence. Increased uncertainty during evidence accumulation was associated with activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater uncertainty when executing a decision uniquely elicited lateral frontal and parietal activity. Greater underconfidence when observing evidence correlated with activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These results suggest that neural mechanisms of uncertainty depend on the stage of decision-making (belief updating vs decision) and that greater subjective uncertainty when evaluating evidence is associated with activity in ventromedial brain regions, even in the absence of overt risk.
Ongoing sensory input is critical for shaping internal representations of the external world. Conversely, a lack of sensory input can profoundly perturb the formation of these representations. The olfactory system is particularly vulnerable to sensory deprivation, owing to the widespread prevalence of allergic, viral and chronic rhinosinusitis, but how the brain encodes and maintains odor information under such circumstances remains poorly understood. Here we combined functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with multivariate (pattern-based) analyses and psychophysical approaches to show that a 7-d period of olfactory deprivation induces reversible changes in odor-evoked fMRI activity in piriform cortex and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Notably, multivoxel ensemble codes of odor quality in OFC became decorrelated after deprivation, and the magnitude of these changes predicted subsequent olfactory perceptual plasticity. Our findings suggest that transient changes in these key olfactory brain regions are instrumental in sustaining odor perception integrity in the wake of disrupted sensory input.
Classic social psychology studies demonstrate that people can behave in ways that contradict their intentions—especially within
the moral domain. We measured brain activity while subjects decided between financial self-benefit (earning money) and preventing
physical harm (applying an electric shock) to a confederate under both real and hypothetical conditions. We found a shared
neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions. However, hypothetical and real moral decisions
also recruited distinct neural circuitry: hypothetical moral decisions mapped closely onto the imagination network, while
real moral decisions elicited activity in the bilateral amygdala and anterior cingulate—areas essential for social and affective
processes. Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether
subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices. Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms
for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable
networks within the PFC.
Substantial differences exist in the cognitive styles of liberals and conservatives on psychological measures. Variability in political attitudes reflects genetic influences and their interaction with environmental factors. Recent work has shown a correlation between liberalism and conflict-related activity measured by event-related potentials originating in the anterior cingulate cortex. Here we show that this functional correlate of political attitudes has a counterpart in brain structure. In a large sample of young adults, we related self-reported political attitudes to gray matter volume using structural MRI. We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala. These results were replicated in an independent sample of additional participants. Our findings extend previous observations that political attitudes reflect differences in self-regulatory conflict monitoring and recognition of emotional faces by showing that such attitudes are reflected in human brain structure. Although our data do not determine whether these regions play a causal role in the formation of political attitudes, they converge with previous work to suggest a possible link between brain structure and psychological mechanisms that mediate political attitudes.
We used a new theory of the biological basis of the Big Five personality traits to generate hypotheses about the association of each trait with the volume of different brain regions. Controlling for age, sex, and whole-brain volume, results from structural magnetic resonance imaging of 116 healthy adults supported our hypotheses for four of the five traits: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Extraversion covaried with volume of medial orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region involved in processing reward information. Neuroticism covaried with volume of brain regions associated with threat, punishment, and negative affect. Agreeableness covaried with volume in regions that process information about the intentions and mental states of other individuals. Conscientiousness covaried with volume in lateral prefrontal cortex, a region involved in planning and the voluntary control of behavior. These findings support our biologically based, explanatory model of the Big Five and demonstrate the potential of personality neuroscience (i.e., the systematic study of individual differences in personality using neuroscience methods) as a discipline.
Many philosophers have worried about what philosophy is. Often they have looked for answers by considering what it is that philosophers do. Given the diversity of topics and methods found in philosophy, however, we propose a different approach. In this article we consider the philosophical temperament, asking an alternative question: What are philosophers like? Our answer is that one important aspect of the philosophical temperament is that philosophers are especially reflective: They are less likely than their peers to embrace what seems obvious without questioning it. This claim is supported by a study of more than 4,000 philosophers and non-philosophers, the results of which indicate that even when we control for overall education level, philosophers tend to be significantly more reflective than their peers. We then illustrate this tendency by considering what we know about the philosophizing of a few prominent philosophers. Recognizing this aspect of the philosophical temperament, it is natural to wonder how philosophers came to be this way: Does philosophical training teach reflectivity or do more reflective people tend to gravitate to philosophy? We consider the limitations of our data with respect to this question and suggest that a longitudinal study be conducted.
While religious faith remains one of the most significant features of human life, little is known about its relationship to ordinary belief at the level of the brain. Nor is it known whether religious believers and nonbelievers differ in how they evaluate statements of fact. Our lab previously has used functional neuroimaging to study belief as a general mode of cognition , and others have looked specifically at religious belief . However, no research has compared these two states of mind directly.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure signal changes in the brains of thirty subjects-fifteen committed Christians and fifteen nonbelievers-as they evaluated the truth and falsity of religious and nonreligious propositions. For both groups, and in both categories of stimuli, belief (judgments of "true" vs judgments of "false") was associated with greater signal in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area important for self-representation , , , , emotional associations , reward , , , and goal-driven behavior . This region showed greater signal whether subjects believed statements about God, the Virgin Birth, etc. or statements about ordinary facts. A comparison of both stimulus categories suggests that religious thinking is more associated with brain regions that govern emotion, self-representation, and cognitive conflict, while thinking about ordinary facts is more reliant upon memory retrieval networks.
While religious and nonreligious thinking differentially engage broad regions of the frontal, parietal, and medial temporal lobes, the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content-independent. Our study compares religious thinking with ordinary cognition and, as such, constitutes a step toward developing a neuropsychology of religion. However, these findings may also further our understanding of how the brain accepts statements of all kinds to be valid descriptions of the world.
By combining the false belief (FB) and photo (PH) vignettes to identify theory-of-mind areas with the false sign (FS) vignettes, we re-establish the functional asymmetry between the left and right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). The right TPJ (TPJ-R) is specially sensitive to processing belief information, whereas the left TPJ (TPJ-L) is equally responsible for FBs as well as FSs. Measuring BOLD at two time points in each vignette, at the time the FB-inducing information (or lack of information) is presented and at the time the test question is processed, made clear that the FB is processed spontaneously as soon as the relevant information is presented and not on demand for answering the question in contrast to extant behavioral data. Finally, a fourth, true belief vignette (TB) required teleological reasoning, that is, prediction of a rational action without any doubts being raised about the adequacy of the actor's information about reality. Activation by this vignette supported claims that the TPJ-R is activated by TBs as well as FBs.
The capacity to reflect on one's sense of self is an important component of self-awareness. In this paper, we investigate some of the neurocognitive processes underlying reflection on the self using functional MRI. Eleven healthy volunteers were scanned with echoplanar imaging using the blood oxygen level-dependent contrast method. The task consisted of aurally delivered statements requiring a yes-no decision. In the experimental condition, participants responded to a variety of statements requiring knowledge of and reflection on their own abilities, traits and attitudes (e.g. 'I forget important things', 'I'm a good friend', 'I have a quick temper'). In the control condition, participants responded to statements requiring a basic level of semantic knowledge (e.g. 'Ten seconds is more than a minute', 'You need water to live'). The latter condition was intended to control for auditory comprehension, attentional demands, decision-making, the motoric response, and any common retrieval processes. Individual analyses revealed consistent anterior medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate activation for all participants. The overall activity for the group, using a random-effects model, occurred in anterior medial prefrontal cortex (t = 13.0, corrected P = 0.05; x, y, z, 0, 54, 8, respectively) and the posterior cingulate (t = 14.7, P = 0.02; x, y, z, -2, -62, 32, respectively; 967 voxel extent). These data are consistent with lesion studies of impaired awareness, and suggest that the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex are part of a neural system subserving self-reflective thought.
Vasopressin and oxytocin strongly modulate autonomic fear responses, through mechanisms that are still unclear. We describe how these neuropeptides excite distinct neuronal populations in the central amygdala, which provides the major output of the amygdaloid complex to the autonomic nervous system. We identified these two neuronal populations as part of an inhibitory network, through which vasopressin and oxytocin modulate the integration of excitatory information from the basolateral amygdala and cerebral cortex in opposite manners. Through this network, the expression and endogenous activation of vasopressin and oxytocin receptors may regulate the autonomic expression of fear.
Trust pervades human societies. Trust is indispensable in friendship, love, families and organizations, and plays a key role in economic exchange and politics. In the absence of trust among trading partners, market transactions break down. In the absence of trust in a country's institutions and leaders, political legitimacy breaks down. Much recent evidence indicates that trust contributes to economic, political and social success. Little is known, however, about the biological basis of trust among humans. Here we show that intranasal administration of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in non-human mammals, causes a substantial increase in trust among humans, thereby greatly increasing the benefits from social interactions. We also show that the effect of oxytocin on trust is not due to a general increase in the readiness to bear risks. On the contrary, oxytocin specifically affects an individual's willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions. These results concur with animal research suggesting an essential role for oxytocin as a biological basis of prosocial approach behaviour.
Much is known about how people make decisions under varying levels of probability (risk). Less is known about the neural basis
of decision-making when probabilities are uncertain because of missing information (ambiguity). In decision theory, ambiguity
about probabilities should not affect choices. Using functional brain imaging, we show that the level of ambiguity in choices
correlates positively with activation in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, and negatively with a striatal system. Moreover,
striatal activity correlates positively with expected reward. Neurological subjects with orbitofrontal lesions were insensitive
to the level of ambiguity and risk in behavioral choices. These data suggest a general neural circuit responding to degrees
of uncertainty, contrary to decision theory.
Understanding the mental states of others entails a number of cognitive processes known as Theory of Mind (ToM). Behavioural and functional neuroimaging evidence suggests that prefrontal and temporo-parietal cortices are involved in these abilities. The present study was aimed at investigating the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and temporo-parietal junction in ToM by using a repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) paradigm.
Eleven healthy subjects participated in the study. The experimental ToM procedure was constituted by false belief and faux-pas written stories. Subjects were evaluated in baseline condition (Sham) and after 1Hz rTMS over the left/right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and temporo-parietal junction. A score for accuracy and response times were recorded.
As regards false beliefs, rTMS over right prefrontal and temporo-parietal areas significantly interfered with response times (p<0.05$). The application of rTMS over right/left prefrontal and right temporo-parietal cortices also significantly worsened accuracy in the ability to take the others' perspective in faux-pas tasks as compared to Sham (p <or= 0.05 in all cases).
The results of the present study are consistent with previous findings supporting the hypothesis that prefrontal and temporo-parietal regions are part of a neural network specifically underpinning the ability to attribute mental states to others.
What is morality? Where does it come from? And why do most of us heed its call most of the time? In Braintrust, neurophilosophy pioneer Patricia Churchland argues that morality originates in the biology of the brain. She describes the "neurobiological platform of bonding" that, modified by evolutionary pressures and cultural values, has led to human styles of moral behavior. The result is a provocative genealogy of morals that asks us to reevaluate the priority given to religion, absolute rules, and pure reason in accounting for the basis of morality. Moral values, Churchland argues, are rooted in a behavior common to all mammals--the caring for offspring. The evolved structure, processes, and chemistry of the brain incline humans to strive not only for self-preservation but for the well-being of allied selves--first offspring, then mates, kin, and so on, in wider and wider "caring" circles. Separation and exclusion cause pain, and the company of loved ones causes pleasure; responding to feelings of social pain and pleasure, brains adjust their circuitry to local customs. In this way, caring is apportioned, conscience molded, and moral intuitions instilled. A key part of the story is oxytocin, an ancient body-and-brain molecule that, by decreasing the stress response, allows humans to develop the trust in one another necessary for the development of close-knit ties, social institutions, and morality. A major new account of what really makes us moral, Braintrust challenges us to reconsider the origins of some of our most cherished values.
Explaining consciousness is one of the last great unanswered scientific and philosophical problems. Immediately known, familiar and obvious, consciousness is also baffling, opaque and strange. This introduction to the problems posed by consciousness discusses the most important work of cognitive science, neurophysiology and philosophy of mind of recent years and presents an up to date assessment of the issues and debates. The book?s engagement with the neuroscience material sets it apart from other philosophical introductions. Welshon presents an informal and largely non-technical account of the properties of consciousness that are thought to be the most paradigmatic and problematic before examining recent scientific work ? from neurophysiological studies of the brain to computational theories of the mind ? and the philosophical problems that these accounts raise.
This paper identifies several ways in which personality informs philosophical belief. In the present study, individuals holding doctorates in philosophy were given a personality inventory and asked to respond to nine philosophical questions, seven of which produced significant sample sizes. Personality predicted response to three of these seven questions, suggesting that philosophers' beliefs are determined in part by their personalities. This is taken as evidence that philosophy is intrinsically subjective, a claim which is herein developed more completely and defended against several objections.
Two lines of evidence indicate that there exists a reciprocal inhibitory relationship between opposed brain networks. First, most attention-demanding cognitive tasks activate a stereotypical set of brain areas, known as the task-positive network and simultaneously deactivate a different set of brain regions, commonly referred to as the task negative or default mode network. Second, functional connectivity analyses show that these same opposed networks are anti-correlated in the resting state. We hypothesize that these reciprocally inhibitory effects reflect two incompatible cognitive modes, each of which is directed towards understanding the external world. Thus, engaging one mode activates one set of regions and suppresses activity in the other. We test this hypothesis by identifying two types of problem-solving task which, on the basis of prior work, have been consistently associated with the task positive and task negative regions: tasks requiring social cognition, i.e., reasoning about the mental states of other persons, and tasks requiring physical cognition, i.e., reasoning about the causal/mechanical properties of inanimate objects. Social and mechanical reasoning tasks were presented to neurologically normal participants during fMRI. Each task type was presented using both text and video clips. Regardless of presentation modality, we observed clear evidence of reciprocal suppression: social tasks deactivated regions associated with mechanical reasoning and mechanical tasks deactivated regions associated with social reasoning. These findings are not explained by self-referential processes, task engagement, mental simulation, mental time travel or external vs. internal attention, all factors previously hypothesized to explain default mode network activity. Analyses of resting state data revealed a close match between the regions our tasks identified as reciprocally inhibitory and regions of maximal anti-correlation in the resting state. These results indicate the reciprocal inhibition is not attributable to constraints inherent in the tasks, but is neural in origin. Hence, there is a physiological constraint on our ability to simultaneously engage two distinct cognitive modes. Further work is needed to more precisely characterize these opposing cognitive domains.
For the greater part of human history, political behaviors, values, preferences, and institutions have been viewed as socially determined. Discoveries during the 1970s that identified genetic influences on political orientations remained unaddressed. However, over the past decade, an unprecedented amount of scholarship utilizing genetic models to expand the understanding of political traits has emerged. Here, we review the 'genetics of politics', focusing on the topics that have received the most attention: attitudes, ideologies, and pro-social political traits, including voting behavior and participation. The emergence of this research has sparked a broad paradigm shift in the study of political behaviors toward the inclusion of biological influences and recognition of the mutual co-dependence between genes and environment in forming political behaviors.
Pharmacological manipulation of serotonergic neurotransmission in healthy volunteers impacts on cognitive test performance. Specifically, markers of serotonin function are associated with attention and executive functioning, long-term memory, and general cognitive ability. The serotonin transporter (SERT) protein is a key regulator in the serotonin system. We hypothesized that higher performance on tests sensitive to serotonin would be associated with higher SERT levels in specific fronto-striatal brain regions.
Thirty-two healthy subjects (25 males, mean age 26.0 years, range 19-37) underwent positron emission tomography using the SERT ligand [(11)C]DASB. Subjects underwent the following tests: Stroop Color Word Test, Trail Making Test B, Rey's Auditory Verbal Learning Test and Complex Figure Test, logical reasoning subtest from Intelligenz-Struktur-Test 2000 R, and a Danish version of National Adult Reading Test.
We found positive associations between performance on the Stroop Color Word Test and right-sided dorsolateral prefrontal SERT binding (R(2) = 0.12, p = 0.048). Furthermore, scores of logical reasoning (correlating with IQ) and educational level associated positively with SERT binding in the caudate, most prominent on the left side (logical reasoning: R(2) = 0.34, p = 0.0026 (left), R(2) = 0.2, p = 0.022 (right), educational level: R(2) = 0.19, p = 0.012 (left), R(2) = 0.15, p = 0.027 (right)). Scores of logical reasoning also associated with left-sided ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (R(2) = 0.24, p = 0.014). There were no significant associations between SERT binding and tests of long-term episodic memory.
The results imply that in healthy subjects, high SERT binding in fronto-striatal regions is associated with better performance on tasks involving executive function and logical reasoning.
Humans regulate intergroup conflict through parochial altruism; they self-sacrifice to contribute to in-group welfare and
to aggress against competing out-groups. Parochial altruism has distinct survival functions, and the brain may have evolved
to sustain and promote in-group cohesion and effectiveness and to ward off threatening out-groups. Here, we have linked oxytocin,
a neuropeptide produced in the hypothalamus, to the regulation of intergroup conflict. In three experiments using double-blind
placebo-controlled designs, male participants self-administered oxytocin or placebo and made decisions with financial consequences
to themselves, their in-group, and a competing out-group. Results showed that oxytocin drives a “tend and defend” response
in that it promoted in-group trust and cooperation, and defensive, but not offensive, aggression toward competing out-groups.
Personality dimensions such as novelty seeking (NS), harm avoidance (HA), reward dependence (RD) and persistence (PER) are said to be heritable, stable across time and dependent on genetic and neurobiological factors. Recently a better understanding of the relationship between personality traits and brain structures/systems has become possible due to advances in neuroimaging techniques. This Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) study investigated if individual differences in these personality traits reflected structural variance in specific brain regions. A large sample of eighty five young adult participants completed the Three-dimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) and had their brain imaged with MRI. A voxel-based correlation analysis was carried out between individuals' personality trait scores and grey matter volume values extracted from 3D brain scans. NS correlated positively with grey matter volume in frontal and posterior cingulate regions. HA showed a negative correlation with grey matter volume in orbito-frontal, occipital and parietal structures. RD was negatively correlated with grey matter volume in the caudate nucleus and in the rectal frontal gyrus. PER showed a positive correlation with grey matter volume in the precuneus, paracentral lobule and parahippocampal gyrus. These results indicate that individual differences in the main personality dimensions of NS, HA, RD and PER, may reflect structural variance in specific brain areas.
Young children show significant changes in their mental-state understanding as marked by their performance on false-belief tasks. This study provides evidence for activity in the prefrontal cortex associated with the development of this ability. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded as adults (N = 24) and 4-, 5-, and 6-year-old children (N = 44) reasoned about reality and the beliefs of characters in animated vignettes. In adults, a late slow wave (LSW), with a left-frontal scalp distribution, was associated with reasoning about beliefs. This LSW was also observed for children who could correctly reason about the characters' beliefs but not in children who failed false-belief questions. These findings have several implications, including support for the critical role of the prefrontal cortex for theory of mind development.
Patients with limited focal frontal and nonfrontal lesions were tested for visual perspective taking and detecting deception. Frontal lobe lesions impaired the ability to infer mental states in others, with dissociation of performance within the frontal lobes. Lesions throughout the frontal lobe, with some suggestion of a more important role for the right frontal lobe, were associated with impaired visual perspective taking. Medial frontal lesions, particularly right ventral, impaired detection of deception. The former may require cognitive processes of the lateral and superior medial frontal regions, the latter affective connections of the ventral medial frontal with amygdala and other limbic regions.
Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern.
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