Thursday, December 29, 2011
EM field, behind right ear, suspends morality
This new finding, from MIT, should cause scientists to more closely examine the risks to human health posed by mobile phones and other wireless, personal technologies. — M.B.
MIT neuroscientists believe they have isolated the brain region — just behind the right ear — where moral judgements take place.
And they can suspend someone’s ability to judge right from wrong, simply by generating a magnetic field near the same spot where many of us hold our cellular phones and wireless, Bluetooth, headsets.
The researchers’ findings, announced today:
“In both experiments, the researchers found that when the right TPJ (right temporo-parietal junction) was disrupted, subjects were more likely to judge failed attempts to harm as morally permissible.”
The technique used by the MIT scientists, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has been described as one that creates “virtual lesions” on the brain.
And although TMS’s long term effects on health are not well understood (similar amounts of electromagnetic radiation have been linked to increased cancer risk), the treatment is becoming increasingly popular for everything from tinnitus to depression.
The US military also hopes to use TMS to keep soldiers fighting, without the need to stop for sleep.
See what else Hub scientists getting up to, by following my Boston Globe column, here.