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Brain. 2016 Jan;139(Pt 1):54-61. doi: 10.1093/brain/awv336. Epub 2015 Nov 24.

Early detection of intentional harm in the human amygdala.

Author information

1
1 Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Favaloro University, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2 UDP-INECO Foundation Core on Neuroscience (UIFCoN), Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile 3 Instituto de Ingeniería Biomédica, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2
1 Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Favaloro University, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2 UDP-INECO Foundation Core on Neuroscience (UIFCoN), Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile 4 National Research Council (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina aibanez@ineco.org.ar.
3
5 Department of Psychology, and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neuroscience, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
4
6 Laboratory of Neuroscience, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires, Argentina 7 Departamento de Física, FCEN, UBA and IFIBA, Conicet, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
5
8 Programa de Cirugía de Epilepsia, Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
6
2 UDP-INECO Foundation Core on Neuroscience (UIFCoN), Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile.
7
9 Escuela de Psicología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
8
1 Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Favaloro University, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2 UDP-INECO Foundation Core on Neuroscience (UIFCoN), Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile 4 National Research Council (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina 10 Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Australian Research Council (ARC), New South Wales, Australia.
9
11 Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
10
1 Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Favaloro University, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2 UDP-INECO Foundation Core on Neuroscience (UIFCoN), Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile 4 National Research Council (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina 10 Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Australian Research Council (ARC), New South Wales, Australia 12 Universidad Autónoma del Caribe, Barranquilla, Colombia aibanez@ineco.org.ar.

Abstract

A decisive element of moral cognition is the detection of harm and its assessment as intentional or unintentional. Moral cognition engages brain networks supporting mentalizing, intentionality, empathic concern and evaluation. These networks rely on the amygdala as a critical hub, likely through frontotemporal connections indexing stimulus salience. We assessed inferences about perceived harm using a paradigm validated through functional magnetic resonance imaging, eye-tracking and electroencephalogram recordings. During the task, we measured local field potentials in three patients with depth electrodes (n = 115) placed in the amygdala and in several frontal, temporal, and parietal locations. Direct electrophysiological recordings demonstrate that intentional harm induces early activity in the amygdala (<200 ms), which--in turn--predicts intention attribution. The amygdala was the only site that systematically discriminated between critical conditions and predicted their classification of events as intentional. Moreover, connectivity analysis showed that intentional harm induced stronger frontotemporal information sharing at early stages. Results support the 'many roads' view of the amygdala and highlight its role in the rapid encoding of intention and salience--critical components of mentalizing and moral evaluation.

KEYWORDS:

amygdala; intentional harm; intracranial recordings; moral cognition

PMID:
26608745
DOI:
10.1093/brain/awv336
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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