Afraid of someone? What if it is possible to reduce someone’s desire to commit a violent act?
A new study gets there, zapping prefrontal cortex of brain to stop the future violence. The researchers zeroed in on the prefrontal cortex—and specifically, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the top, front area of the brain. It has just passed a proof of concept stage, according to new research published Monday in the Journal of Neuroscience.
“The ability to manipulate such complex and fundamental aspects of cognition and behavior from outside the body has tremendous social, ethical, and possibly someday legal implications,” says Roy Hamilton, an associate professor of Neurology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and the senior paper author.
Looks like a crime! Using it on only a few uncontrollable ones must be advised rather than who desires to have their brains shut down. Because, when the techniques advances chances are many that people prefer zapping brain to drugs or any other addictions which can lead to limiting man’s ability on the whole.
The research team conducted a double-blind randomized control trial on 81 healthy adults ages 18 or older. At the start of the study, participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first received stimulation on the prefrontal cortex for 20 minutes; the second, the placebo group, received a low current for 30 seconds, then nothing more. Participants did not know their group assignment nor did the individual conducting each experiment.
“Zapping offenders with an electrical current to fix their brains sounds like pulp fiction, but it might not be as crazy as it sounds,” said Adrian Raine, a neurocriminologist at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s investigators. “This study goes some way toward documenting a causal association by showing that enhancing the prefrontal cortex puts the brakes on the impulse to act aggressively.”
For those who had their brains zapped, the expressed likelihood of carrying out the physical and sexual assaults was 47% and 70% lower respectively than those who did not have brain stimulation. In the first scenario, Chris smashes a bottle over Joe’s head for chatting up his girlfriend, and in the second, a night of intimate foreplay leads to date rape.
Lead researcher Olivia Choy, a criminologist who teaches in the psychology department at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said, “While this is certainly an early step in the study of tDCS and antisocial, aggressive behavior, it may inform future approaches to reducing aggressive intent and behavior through a noninvasive, relatively benign intervention that targets a biological risk factor for crime. If these findings can be replicated and extended, it may be that use of tDCS on offenders is not entirely out of the question.”
“The study also suggests that violent thought and action are not wholly preordained by one’s brain wiring, since they can be influenced by outside inputs,” he said. “In this study the outside input was electrical stimulation, but typically the outside circumstances that can influence the brain’s machinery for controlling violence include the entire spectrum of lived experiences.”
“Right now we’re limited in dealing with aggression and don’t have very good interventions — just talk therapy, off-label medications,” she said. “So anything we can add to the armamentarium to counter future acts of violence, the better.”
Despite the encouraging results, Choy makes it clear there’s more work necessary before it’s certain this type of treatment will reduce violence. The study needs to be replicated, then built upon, she says.
The researchers are not yet ruling out anything. “Perhaps,” Hamilton concludes, “the secret to holding less violence in your heart is to have a properly stimulated mind.”