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Moral Stimulation

July 5, 2018

Electricity may charge up our moral character.



Reducing violent intent with electricity. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Volunteers reading accounts of physical or sexual aggression were less likely to say that they’d commit such an act if they’d had mild electrical current applied to their prefrontal cortex a day earlier. This according to research in the journal Jneurosci. Lead author Olivia Choy, at Nanyang Technological University, says that the treatment also changed their moral judgement.

OLIVIA CHOY (Nanyang Technological University):

Upregulation of the prefrontal cortex enhances people’s perceptions of how morally wrongful those aggressive acts are.


Co-author Adrian Raine at the University of Pennsylvania says the work could lead to non-pharmaceutical approaches to reducing violent behavior.

ADRIAN RAINE (University of Pennsylvania):

I think what Olivia’s study is doing is that she’s tackling violence head on, by stimulating the prefrontal cortex to jumpstart the moral brain.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon