Article

The neurobiology of moral behavior: Review and neuropsychiatric implications

Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.
CNS spectrums (Impact Factor: 2.71). 11/2009; 14(11):608-20.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Morality may be innate to the human brain. This review examines the neurobiological evidence from research involving functional magnetic resonance imaging of normal subjects, developmental sociopathy, acquired sociopathy from brain lesions, and frontotemporal dementia. These studies indicate a "neuromoral" network for responding to moral dilemmas centered in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and its connections, particularly on the right. The neurobiological evidence indicates the existence of automatic "prosocial" mechanisms for identification with others that are part of the moral brain. Patients with disorders involving this moral network have attenuated emotional reactions to the possibility of harming others and may perform sociopathic acts. The existence of this neuromoral system has major clinical implications for the management of patients with dysmoral behavior from brain disorders and for forensic neuropsychiatry.

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    • "Previous neuroimaging investigations using functional MRI in healthy individuals converge with lesion studies in neurological patients to identify brain mechanisms implicated in moral thinking. There is now solid evidence for the involvement of a network of regions, which include the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), temporoparietal junction (TPJ), amygdala, and insula (e.g., Buckholtz & Marois, 2012; Decety, Michalska, & Kinzler, 2012; Fumagalli & Priori, 2012; Mendez, 2009; Moll et al., 2007; Young & Dungan, 2012). Moreover, it is clear that these regions are not specific to the domain of morality. "
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