Thursday, May 10, 2007

Brain abnormalities and responsibility

Mobbs et al offer an excellent article reviewing how alterations of prefrontal or limbic cortex can influence pro- and anti-social behaviors. They discuss issues of responsibility and law.

Prefrontal regions associated with pro-social behavior.

(click to enlarge)
(A) Medial and lateral view of the PFC.
(B) View of the ventral surface of the PFC and temporal poles.
(C) Coronal slice illustrating the amygdalar and insular cortex.
ACC, anterior cingulate cortex; dlPFC, dorsolateral PFC; MFd, medial PFC; oMFC, orbitomedial PFC; TP, temporal pole; vlPFC, ventrolateral PFC; vmPFC, ventromedial PFC.

Regions associated with atypical social behavior:
Using positron emission tomography scanning, neuroscientists have found attenuated resting regional cerebral blood flow in the frontal lobes of violent individuals and convicted criminals. In healthy volunteers, evoked anger and imagined aggressive transgressions are associated with reduced modulation of the orbital and medial PFC. Collectively, these studies suggest that impulsive violent acts stem from diminished recruitment of the PFC's “inhibition” systems....In humans, brain-imaging and lesion studies have suggested a role of the amygdala in theory of mind, aggression, and the ability to register fear and sadness in faces . According to the violence inhibition model, both sad and fearful facial cues act as important inhibitors if we are violent towards others. In support of this model, recent investigations have shown that individuals with a history of aggressive behaviour have poorer recognition of facial expressions, which might be due to amygdala dysfunction.

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