Doing the right thing: A common neural circuit for appropriate violent or compassionate behavior

John A. King, R. James R. Blair, Derek G.V. Mitchell, Raymond J. Dolan, Neil Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Humans have a considerable facility to adapt their behavior in a manner that is appropriate to social or societal context. A failure of this ability can lead to social exclusion and is a feature of disorders such as psychopathy and disruptive behavior disorder. We investigated the neural basis of this ability using a customized video game played by 12 healthy participants in an fMRI scanner. Two conditions involved extreme examples of context-appropriate action: shooting an aggressive humanoid assailant or healing a passive wounded person. Two control conditions involved carefully matched stimuli paired with inappropriate actions: shooting the person or healing the assailant. Surprisingly, the same circuit, including the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, was activated when participants acted in a context-appropriate manner, whether being compassionate towards an injured conspecific or aggressive towards a violent assailant. The findings indicate a common system that guides behavioral expression appropriate to social or societal context irrespective of its aggressive or compassionate nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1069-1076
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroImage
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 15 2006

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Aptitude
Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Video Games
Amygdala
Prefrontal Cortex
Healthy Volunteers
Magnetic Resonance Imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this

Doing the right thing : A common neural circuit for appropriate violent or compassionate behavior. / King, John A.; Blair, R. James R.; Mitchell, Derek G.V.; Dolan, Raymond J.; Burgess, Neil.

In: NeuroImage, Vol. 30, No. 3, 15.04.2006, p. 1069-1076.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

King, John A. ; Blair, R. James R. ; Mitchell, Derek G.V. ; Dolan, Raymond J. ; Burgess, Neil. / Doing the right thing : A common neural circuit for appropriate violent or compassionate behavior. In: NeuroImage. 2006 ; Vol. 30, No. 3. pp. 1069-1076.
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