With the escalating number of crimes, it has become difficult to combat the intentions to commit assaults. Recently, scientists have found that a session of electrical brain stimulation can raise the moral awareness among the criminals.

Researchers at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the University of Pennsylvania have found that impairment in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is linked to violent acts and brain stimulation may reduce the chance of crimes.

In order to carry out, the experiment 86 adults were recruited and they were given 20 minutes of brain stimulation. Before applying stimulations, the whole group was provided with two hypothetical scenarios. The first scenario was describing a physical assault and the second one was a sexual assault.

The participants were immediately asked to rate the likelihood that they might act as the protagonist had in the stories.

The rate of response to the study

Their rate of response was 47% who expressed the likelihood of carrying out the immoral act of physical and sexual assault which was 70% lower than those who did not have brain stimulation.

A psychologist at NTU, Prof Olivia Choy said that long ago neuroscientists have established a connection between impaired activity in the prefrontal cortex and antisocial behaviour. It is though not clear if the reduced brain activity was a trigger for violent acts. “We wanted to test if there is a causal role for that brain region,” she said.

Transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS is a procedure used by Choy and her colleagues Adrian Raine and Roy Hamilton at the University of Pennsylvania. They delivered a 2 milliAmp current to the prefrontal cortex of volunteers to enhancement the region’s activity.

The study does not confirm yet.

A Neuroscientist in his Journal of Neuroscience described that how brain stimulation reduced the intention of people to commit assault and made them more morally opposed to the act. In the lab, the stimulation did not reduce the actual violent behaviour. A part of the study also found that the participants expressed their emotions on voodoo dolls by piercing pins regardless of any brain stimulations.

It is still unclear of the fact that if brain stimulations reduce violent crimes. The scientists have exerted pressure to work on this field and confirm the fact. Moreover, in the process, if it turns out to be effective then the convicted criminals could be treated better through brain stimulation along with other more traditional interventions.

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“When most people think of crime they think bad neighbourhoods, poverty, discrimination, and those are all correct,” said Raine. “But we also believe that there’s a biological contribution to the crime which has been seriously neglected in the past. What this shows is that there could be a new, different approach to try and reduce crime and violence in society.”

Using a more targeted brain stimulation are expected to be implemented on a larger number of people by the scientists. The ventral prefrontal cortex is the region in a brain when activated through stimulation is hoped to help people control powerful emotions that lead to impulsive assaults. Such endeavours will surely improve the moral awareness.

“If the science down the road shows that this can work and change behaviour, what’s so heinous about giving this as an option with people’s consent?” said Raine. “I see this coming and we need to be prepared for it.”