Selfishness can be detected in the brain (and altruism too)

Hyperaxion Mar 4, 2020

A team of scientists at Yale University in the United States has discovered, for the first time, that brain activity changes markedly when a selfish or altruistic act is being carried out.

For several years, neuroscientists have sought to understand the biological basis of generosity and altruism. Does something concrete happen in the brain when certain decisions are made? Or is there an associated genetic predisposition?

Now, a team led by Steve Chang has shown that these traits – selfishness and altruism – can “be seen” directly in the brain.


To reach this conclusion, the scientists carried out experimental procedures on monkeys that faced the dilemma of whether or not to share fruit juice.

“Our results show that two brain regions – the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex – use specialized frequency channels to interact,” explained Steve Chang, lead author of the study, to the Spanish newspaper ABC.

Read more: Antisocials have a different brain structure

The scientists also found that the “degree of interaction between the two [types of channels] is associated with the fact that pro-social or antisocial decisions are made”, he concluded.

Other previous studies had already found evidence that the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex had effects on social cognition.

In this new study, published this week in the specialized scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists intended to analyze neurological activity during the exercise of selfish and altruistic actions.


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