Posts in Category: Science of Altruism

Dr. Jorge Moll Studies the Science of Altruism

Dr. Jorge Moll is noted as a Brazilian neuroscientist with a joint author for the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. In the piece, titled “Human fronto–mesolimbic networks guide decisions about charitable donation,” researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to chart the engagement of the mesolimbic reward system when anonymous donations were made.

Researchers including Dr. Jorge Moll found the following:

– The mesolimbic system has a similar reaction with donating as it does when a person receives a monetary reward.

– Medial orbitofrontal–subgenual and lateral orbitofrontal areas of the brain, which play a role in social attachment and aversion, mediate decisions to donate.

– Anterior sectors of the prefrontal cortex are recruited when altruism is chosen over selfish material interests.

Dr. Jorge Moll and his colleagues used a functional MRI to measure the neural mechanisms involved in charitable giving. Results were determined by offering participant a choice of whether to donate or forgo giving based on the type of cause. These causes include children’s rights, abortion, gender equality, euthanasia, nuclear power and war.

Participants were given $128 to donate, or keep. Dr. Moll and his colleagues were also able to make a non-monetary donation or objection to a cause. In this arrangement researchers investigated the exchange of material interests and altruistic preferences. The research uncovered areas of the brain effected by the donation decisions with the aid of the functional MRI.

In general, it was determined that altruism draws on mammalian neural systems of reward, social attachment, and aversion. However when donating became a complex choice because of competing moral attitudes, participants depended on the anterior prefrontal cortex. This portion of the brain is a uniquely human neural development (Ideamensch).

Others researchers taking place in the study included Frank Krueger, Roland Zahn, Matteo Pardini, Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza and Jordan Grafman.