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Specific Part Of The Brain Activated When Learning To Help Others

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
Highlights
  • Prosocial behavior is essential for social bonding, cohesion and also benefits other people.
  • Emapthy is said to be the critical motivator of prosocial behavior.
  • People readily learn to make choices that benefit themselves and others and the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex was activated when learning to help other people.
  • People with higher levels of empathy learnt to benefit others faster than those who had lower levels of empathy.
Part of the brain that helps people learn to be good to others have been identified by scientists from Oxford University and UCL. Currently, very little is known as to how and why people do things to help others. This discovery could also help understand the nature of psychopaths who exhibit extremely anti-social behaviors.
Specific Part Of The Brain Activated When Learning To Help Others
Specific Part Of The Brain Activated When Learning To Help Others
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Prosocial behaviors are fundamental aspects of human behaviors which benefit other people and are essential for social bonding and cohesion. Though every individual has an inclination to engage in prosocial behavior, there are substantial differences among them.

‘Subgenual anterior cingulate cortex of the brain shows increased signaling in people who had higher levels of empathy while they engaged in learning to do good for others.’
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Empathy, the willingness to put oneself in others shoes or to vicariously understand and experience another person's feelings is said to be a critical motivator of prosocial behavior. This study led by Dr.Patricia Lockwood establishes a possible link between empathy and learning to help others.

A well-understood model was used to understand how people learn to maximize good outcomes for themselves. This was then applied to understand how people learn to help others. Volunteers had to identify which symbols were more likely to give them, or someone else, a reward and this was monitored using MRI scanning.

Scientists found that though people readily learn to make choices that benefit others, they do not learn it as fast as they learn to benefit themselves. But a particular brain area involved in learning to get the best result for other people was identified.

Dr. Lockwood said: "A specific part of the brain called the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex was the only part of the brain that was activated when learning to help other people. Put another way, the subgenual anterior cingulate seems to be especially tuned to benefiting other people."

This region of the brain varied in the activity level in every person. People who reported having higher levels of empathy learnt to benefit others faster than those who had lower levels of empathy. Increased signaling in their subgenual anterior cingulate cortex when benefiting others were also seen in such individuals.

This study shows that learning prosocial behaviors involves a particular brain process and also establishes a possible link between empathy and learning to help others. By understanding how brain functions when we do things for other people, and the individual differences in this ability, helps to better understand what is goes wrong in those whose psychological conditions are characterized by antisocial disregard for others.

References:
  1. Scientists find the brain's generosity center - (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/uoo-sft081216.php)


Source: Medindia
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