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The constellation of problems found in institutionalized children include: smaller brain size with reduced cortical thickness, deficits in cognitive and language functions, problems with emotional regulation, and increased risk for psychotic symptoms Tottenham et al. From these studies we see that development plays an important role in cultivating behavior, and that early intervention can help recover normal development, even impacting adolescent criminals. How much of this is learning and how much is developmental determinism?

In this context, learners were defined as those who made choices resulting in economic gain, whether for themselves or others, and is mathematical in nature. On a neuroscientific basis, learning occurs with the release of dopamine in the reward and reinforcement centers of the brain including regions of the striatum, such as the nucleus accumbens, from the ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra.

Rodents have been observed to learn the conditions of an experimental shock more quickly after vicariously observing other rodents receive the shock during such conditioning experiments. These rodents vicariously learn the conditions of the experimental shock more rapidly if they also have experienced the shock for themselves, regardless of whether that shock was experienced within the context of the conditioning experiment or not Sanders et al. Rodents that had these vicarious learning experiences while hearing pain-induced vocalizations in others exhibited increased activation of both dopamine and serotonin circuitry and the ACC Kim et al.

These studies on vicarious or empathic learning are supported by studies in humans showing experience of a painful stimulus increases empathy in human observers Eklund et al. Participation in the Zurich Prosocial Game, a computer-based compassion training game that requires cooperation, has been shown to increase helping behavior in human subjects 5 days after training Leiberg et al.

Further supporting the role of social learning as important in the cultivation of prosocial behavior are studies linking oxytocin, previously described for its prosocial and parental functions, with dopamine circuitry. Oxytocin receptors and dopamine receptors coexist in the striatum, medial PFC, substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area Skuse and Gallagher, Thus social and cultural behaviors and activities are mechanisms for not only training the brain beginning in prenatal life, they are also principal components in determining brain development and dopaminergic reinforcement learning in the adult.

Empathy and compassion are feelings with basic genetic and neural underpinnings crucial for the development of large interacting social communities characterizing our species. Successful cultures have strong and effective implicit and explicit mechanisms for promoting and enhancing empathetic and compassionate behavior. Buddhist methods for training the mind through meditation and yoga Tomasino et al. While this review has focused on those populating the extremes of the social, behavioral, and cognitive spectrums, the question remains as to whether individuals within a cultural norm can alter their behavior to become more compassionate and display less selfish behavior.

For this non-clinical cohort there exists an interesting non-clinical approach encompassed by mindfulness-based and compassion meditation. In one BOLD fMRI based study of expert and novice compassion meditators, an increase in activity was observed in the ACC, amygdala, and the insular cortex among other regions of expert meditators during meditation compared with non-meditative rest in response to negative emotional sounds Lutz et al. These include regions implicated in the selfish—selfless spectrum as outlined previously in this text. The degree of activation of these regions also correlated with the self-reported depth of meditation and the degree of meditative training, indicating that additional experience activates these regions of the brain to a greater degree.

Some groups have attempted to bring this practice to the clinical psychology setting Fox et al. One study found that 12 weeks of mindfulness-based intervention with compassion meditation in a group with social anxiety disorder resulted in a significant improvement in social anxiety symptoms, depression, social adjustment, and enhancement of compassion, all compared to a control group that was placed on a waiting list at the beginning of the study Koszycki et al.

In the general population, mindfulness-based practices have been reported to promote a plethora of effects on the whole body: reducing stress hormones, reducing inflammation, promoting pain relief and wound healing Hofmann et al. Other forms of meditation including concentrative eye-gazing and controlled breathing have been shown to result in voluntary activation of components of the sympathetic nervous system, changes in plasma catecholamine and serum cortisol concentrations, and an attenuation of the innate immune response as measured by plasma cytokines Kox et al.

The study of altruism and psychopathy has implications beyond these traits, as similar brain regions are affected in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Keding and Herringa, ; Rinne-Albers et al. This suggests meditative or contemplative practices can affect acquired cognitive traits, including promoting unselfish behavior. Altruism as envisioned by Auguste Comte exists in the general population and in zealous altruists who anchor the benevolence end of the Selfish—Selfless Spectrum.

Both positions are partial truths based on the components of the Selfish—Selfless Spectrum being observed. As a lens into the social brain, the extremes of the Selfish—Selfless Spectrum defined by callous, unemotional psychopaths and dynamic, zealous altruists reveal the importance of both genetic and neuron-based heredity systems and reward processes in strongly influencing actions toward others and cooperative behavior.

Critically, individuals with genes associated with developing dangerous social disorders such as callous, unemotional traits have the potential to modify those conditions using cognitive therapeutic interventions e. Evidence from population groups ranging from incarcerated juveniles, adopted children, twins, and meditators point to the important role of neuroplasticity and reward learning circuitry in forming and reforming of neural connections that determine our behavior. Success with treatment programs promoting positive behavior via the brain reward system in these diverse groups suggests promise as a therapeutic approach to mitigating violent, destructive behavior.

Approaches involving introspection and promoting acts of compassion that activate the reward system, such as mindfulness training, are entering the mainstream of clinical treatment for pain management, depression, stress, and behavior modification. JS and DG contributed equally to the conception, design, writing of the manuscript, revisions, and approval of the submitted version.


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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. The authors would like to thank Matt Hazzard for contributing the medical illustrations and figures used in this text and Dr. Wayne Bell for the encouragement in the study of critical issues in neurotheology. Adolphs, R. The social brain: neural basis of social knowledge. A mechanism for impaired fear recognition after amygdala damage.

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Scientific Reduction

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The moral judgment of psychopaths

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Labels like autism can have benefits : They can be a shibboleth among communities who relate to them, and under current constructs, serve as a passport to services. Does it seem far-fetched that treatments like this would work? Skeem and colleagues note that early adolescence is an especially key period for emotional learning and intervention. For children who show what are now being designated as callous-unemotional traits a lack of emotional empathy and guilt coupled with signs of conduct disorder , intervention at these crucial periods could derail a child at risk of psychopathy from growing into a unemotional killer or narcissistic grifter.

But, you might argue, one of the most infamous manifestations of psychopathy is harm to others, particularly bodily harm or even death, although not all serial killers are psychopaths and not all psychopaths kill. We do not. You can accept that psychopathy can be partly inborn without using that acceptance to defend immoral behavior or abrogate human and social responsibility or safety. What benefit could society accrue by ameliorating callous-unemotional traits or building emotional empathy while not wiping out potentially heroic fearlessness or a capacity to excel at strategic thinking?

Genetics in Medicine. Different Takes. Archived from the original PDF on 18 October Retrieved 18 September The Herald. Retrieved 17 October International Bioethics Committee. Retrieved 22 October However, it impinges upon the principle of respect for human dignity in several ways. It weakens the idea that the differences among human beings, regardless of the measure of their endowment, are exactly what the recognition of their equality presupposes and therefore protects.

It introduces the risk of new forms of discrimination and stigmatization for those who cannot afford such enhancement or simply do not want to resort to it. The arguments that have been produced in favour of the so-called liberal eugenics do not trump the indication to apply the limit of medical reasons also in this case. Harper Perennial.

AMA Journal of Ethics. We argue that prenatal screening and specifically NIPT for Down syndrome can be considered a form of contemporary eugenics, in that it effaces, devalues, and possibly prevents the births of people with the condition. SB - Newborn Screening Program. State of California. Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development. London: Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved 28 November Darwin Correspondence Project.

University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 24 January Glimpses of the Cosmos. Putnam's sons. Retrieved 11 April London: Routledge. Retrieved 16 January As an applied science, thus, the practice of eugenics referred to everything from prenatal care for mothers to forced sterilization and euthanasia. Galton divided the practice of eugenics into two types—positive and negative—both aimed at improving the human race through selective breeding. Science and Society. Controlling Human Heredity: to the Present. New Jersey: Humanities Press.

Proof-of-principle findings pave the way for precision medicine in psychiatry

War Against the Weak. Thunder's Mouth Press. National Geographic. Library of University of Princeton. Retrieved 12 September July Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. Hermitage Publishers. Nazi Family Policy, — The Huffington Post. Part III. The Implementation of Classical Eugenics pp. The New Eugenics pp. Quote: "There is, nevertheless, a good case for reviving the sterilization of the mentally retarded and criminals. It is indisputable on both empirical and theorethical ground that many of these people transmit their characteristics to their children by both genetic and environmental processes.

First quote: "The rationale for this sentencing policy was that the judges considered these women unfit to rear children and that they should therefore be prevented from having more, at least for a few years. It is preferable for these women to be put on probation conditional on temporary sterilization than to send them to prison, which in most cases would serve little useful purpose.

These judges' decisions were not made ostensibly on eugenic grounds, but they furthered the eugenic objective of preventing these women from having children, at least for a limited period. Quote: "A better alternative, from the point of view of reducing future criminal offending and the promotion of eugenics, would be for judges to offer convicted male criminals the alternatives of imprisonment or castration accompanied by probation. Wired UK. Richard Lynn argued that to have an effective licensing program, reversible sterilization methods should be used. Those who wish to have children would obtain the licence and have the sterilization reversed.

Lynn stated that the proposals made by Francis Galton, Hugh LaFollette and John Westman would not be effective from the eugenicists' viewpoint, since those without licences could still have children. The proposal by David Lykken would be only slightly effective.

Quote: "While it can be confidently expected that elites would respond to financial incentives to have children and to penalties for childlessness by increasing their fertility, they might not do this to the extent that would be desired. Ideally a program of positive eugenics would increase the fertility of the elite to perhaps around four children per couple; and at the same time a complementary program of negative eugenics would reduce the fertility of those with low intelligence and psychopathic personality to zero.

Quote: "The final strategy for the promotion of positive eugenics would consist of the acceptance of good-quality immigrants. Historical Research. Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. Retrieved 3 October Tim Fall Journal of Economic Perspectives. Archived from the original on 13 August European Physical Journal B. Bibcode : EPJB Research in Biopolitics. American Journal of Bioethics. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. Technology Teacher. Stanford University. Retrieved 18 October This argument is unpersuasive because all sorts of measures that are acceptable might, if taken to extremes, lead to other measures that are unacceptable.

Four Walls Eight Windows. Retrieved 21 February Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age. Times Books. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 9 September New Haven: Yale University Press. Keele University. From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice. Quote: "What Rawls says is that "Over time a society is to take steps to preserve the general level of natural abilities and to prevent the diffusion of serious defects. Rawls clearly envisages only the use of negative eugenics as a preventative measure to ensure a good basic level of genetic health for future generations.

To jump from this to "make the later generations as genetically talented as possible," as Pence does, is a masterpiece of misinterpretation. This, then, is the sixth argument against positive eugenics: the Veil of Ignorance argument.

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Those behind the Veil in Rawls' Original Position would agree to permit negative, but not positive eugenics. This is a more complex variant of the Consent argument, as the Veil of Ignorance merely forces us to adopt a position of hypotethical consent to particular principles of justice. Pepperdine Law Review. Retrieved 2 June Rawls arrives at the difference principle by considering how justice might be drawn from a hypothetical "original position. Only from such a position of universal equality can principles of justice be drawn.

In establishing how to distribute social primary goods, for example, "rights and liberties, powers and opportunities, income and wealth" and self-respect, Rawls determines that a person operating from the original position would develop two principles. First, liberties ascribed to each individual should be as extensive as possible without infringing upon the liberties of others.

Second, social primary goods should be distributed to the greatest advantage of everyone and by mechanisms that allow equal opportunity to all. Genetic engineering should not be permitted merely for the enhancement of physical attractiveness because that would not benefit the least advantaged. Arguably, resources should be concentrated on genetic therapy to address disease and genetic defects. However, such a result is not required under Rawls' theory.