“We’re a long way from ‘Clockwork Orange,’” said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The researchers aimed at the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex because dozens of small neuro-imaging studies have reported that in people deemed antisocial or aggressive or both, this region is typically smaller and less active than in other people. Such studies can’t tell whether an impaired prefrontal cortex causes aggression or vice versa, so the Penn study, a registered clinical trial, tried to figure that out.
The next day, participants read one vignette about the beer-bottle assault and one about the rape, and rated how likely they were (from “no chance” to “definitely”) to act as the assaulter did. The brain-stimulated group reported a 47 percent lower likelihood that they would commit the non-sexual physical assault (1.15 vs. 2.19 on a scale of 0 to 10) and a 70 percent lower likelihood of committing the sexual assault (0.26 vs. 0.86) compared with the control group. The brain-stimulated group also rated the assaults as more morally wrong than the control group did.
“What people say they will do with regard to violence and what they actually do may be two different things,” said Appelbaum. “Whether actual violence would be reduced [by brain stimulation] is unknown,” but “the data suggest no impact” on actual aggressive behavior.
“We’re trying to find benign biological interventions [for criminal violence] that society will accept,” Penn psychologist Adrian Raine, who has studied the brain basis of violence and psychopathy for decades, said in a statement. “Transcranial direct-current stimulation is minimal risk. This isn’t a frontal lobotomy.”
Benign you say?
Sounds like cleansing the mentally unfit, but in a benign way, yeah?