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Wed, 12 May 2021
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How the Heart Can Rule the Head

Many philosophers have argued that people make decisions about what's right and wrong based on moral principles and rational thought. But other philosophers--and more recently, some psychologists and neuroscientists--have argued that there's more to the story. When faced with a moral dilemma, these scholars say, we rely on emotional reactions as well as our powers of reasoning. In a study of brain damage, published today, neuroscientists report evidence that emotions indeed exert a powerful influence on moral judgments.

In the new study, Antonio Damasio of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and colleagues examined moral reasoning in six people who had damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a brain region that regulates emotions. The researchers presented the patients with moral dilemmas that forced them to decide whether it was acceptable to sacrifice one person's life to save several others. For example, participants had to decide whether to flip a switch that diverts a runaway trolley from a track leading to five workers to a track leading to just one worker. The researchers also gauged the decisions of 12 people without brain damage and 12 patients with damage to brain regions unconnected to emotion.

Health

Brain Damage 'Causes Bad Behavior'



©BBC
Damage to the brain can change behaviour.

Anti-social behaviour may be linked in some cases to brain damage suffered as a child, researchers have found.

A team from the Institute of Child Health has found that brain damage inflicted on a specific area of the brain can lead to serious anti-social behaviour in puberty and adulthood.

The discovery raises the possibility that brain scans could be used in future to determine which people are most likely to suffer from long-term behavioural problems following an accident.

Comment: The effects of such brain damage on individuals and societies goes much further than isolated 'bad behavior.' Andrew Lobaczewski writes:
The pathological character of such people, generally containing a component of hysteria, develops through the years. The non-damaged psychological functions become overdeveloped to compensate, which means that instinctive and [emotional] reactions predominate. Relatively vital people become belligerent, risk-happy, and brutal in both word and deed.

Persons with an innate talent for intuiting psychological situations tend to take advantage of this gift in an egotistical and ruthless fashion. In the thought process of such people, a short cut way develops which bypasses the handicapped function, thus leading from associations directly to words, deeds, and decisions which are not subject to any dissuasion. Such individuals interpret their talent for intuiting situations and making split-second oversimplified decisions as a sign of their superiority compared to normal people, who need to think for long time, experiencing self-doubt and conflicting motivations. The fate of such creatures does not deserve to be pondered long.

Such "Stalinistic characters" traumatize and actively spellbind others, and their influence finds it exceptionally easy to bypass the controls of common sense. A large proportion of people tend to credit such individuals with special powers, thereby succumbing to their egotistic beliefs. If a parent manifests such a defect, no matter how minimal, all the children in the family evidence anomalies in personality development. [Political Ponerology: The Scientific Study of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes]



Info

Wal-Mart Expands $4 Drugs Program

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expanding its national $4 generic prescription drug program by about 10 percent, adding drugs for some new conditions.

The world's largest retailer said Thursday it has added drugs covering glaucoma, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fungal infections and acne.

Propaganda

No Shock! Federal Study run by former Merck employee says Thimerosal doesn't affect brain function

A mercury-based preservative once used in many vaccines does not raise the risk of neurological problems in children, concludes a large federal study that researchers say should reassure parents about the safety of shots their kids received a decade or more ago.

However, the study did not examine autism - the developmental disorder that some critics blame on vaccines. A separate study due out in a year will look at that issue, said scientists at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who led the latest analysis and published results in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.


Attention

Deadly Immunity

In June 2000, a group of top government scientists and health officials gathered for a meeting at the isolated Simpsonwood conference center in Norcross, Ga. Convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the meeting was held at this Methodist retreat center, nestled in wooded farmland next to the Chattahoochee River, to ensure complete secrecy. The agency had issued no public announcement of the session -- only private invitations to 52 attendees. There were high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva, and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur. All of the scientific data under discussion, CDC officials repeatedly reminded the participants, was strictly "embargoed." There would be no making photocopies of documents, no taking papers with them when they left.

Arrow Up

Scottish obesity 'just behind US'

Obesity levels in Scotland are the second highest in the developed world behind the USA, new statistics have revealed.

The figures were published as the Scottish Government announced plans to remove sweets and fizzy drinks from schools.

Under new rules, the amount of chips served in school meals will also be cut and more fruit and vegetables provided.

Children's Minister Adam Ingram said he wanted to change young people's habits.

The figures , released by ISD Scotland, the statistical wing of the NHS, said the "obesity epidemic" in Scotland must be addressed and outlines the extent of the "major public health problem".

Attention

Coffee 'triples paracetamol risks'

Reaching for the paracetamol alongside your morning coffee may be bad for your health, researchers say.

A study indicated that a combination of large quantities of the pain-killer and caffeine appeared to increase the risk of liver damage. Scientists found that caffeine tripled the amount of a toxic by-product created when paracetamol was broken down.

However, the University of Washington team so far has plied only bacteria and rats with large doses. British scientists emphasised that far more research would be needed to prove any danger to humans.

Magic Wand

Researchers Find Eye Movement Can Affect Problem-solving, Cognition

A pair of Beckman Institute researchers has discovered that by directing the eye movements of test subjects they were able to affect the participants' ability to solve a problem, demonstrating that eye movement is not just a function of cognition but can actually affect our cognitive processes.

Previous research (Grant and Spivey, 2003) has shown a relationship between eye movements and problem-solving but Psychology Professor Alejandro Lleras, a member of the Human Perception and Performance group, and Ph.D. candidate Laura Thomas have taken that work in a groundbreaking direction.

They report in the current (Aug., 2007) issue of Psychonomic Bulletin and Review that by occasionally guiding the eye movements of participants with a tracking task unrelated to the problem, they were able to "substantially affect their chances of problem-solving success" to the point where those groups outperformed every control group at solving the problem. These results, they conclude, demonstrate that "it is now clear that not only do eye movements reflect what we are thinking, they can also influence how we think."

Attention

Victimization for sexual orientation increases suicidal behavior in college students

The film and television series "M*A*S*H*" featured the song "Suicide is Painless," but new research refutes that idea and indicates that being victimized because of sexual orientation is a chief risk factor for suicidal behavior among gay, lesbian and bisexual college students.

The study is the first to explore the link between victimization and suicidal behavior among college students. In the course of the study, University of Washington researcher Heather Murphy also uncovered a group of students who previously had not been studied and are at increased risk for suicidal behavior. These students identified themselves as heterosexual, but also reported being attracted to people of the same sex or engaging in same-sex behavior.

Bomb

The Age of Autism: The Amish Elephant

A specter is haunting the medical and journalism establishments of the United States: Where are the unvaccinated people with autism?

That is just about the only way to explain what now appears to be a collective resistance to considering that question. And like all unanswered questions, this raises another one: Why?