How the Neuroscience of Violence Can Bring Peace

In an attempt to encourage sympathy across the battle lines of ethnic conflicts, neuroscientists are working with the Pentagon to better understand how violence works in the brain. 

What's the Latest Development?

To diffuse ethnic conflicts and improve humanitarian missions, the Pentagon is teaming up with several research institutions to better understand the neuroscience of violence. In one experiment conducted by Gregory Burns, a neuroeconmoist at Emory University, subjects were paid to disavow their former beliefs, ranging from whether they preferred cats to dogs, to stronger issues like sex and belief in God. Burns found that a specific region of the brain was activated when people disavowed their more serious beliefs, suggesting there is a biological basis for ethnic conflict. 

What's the Big Idea?

While international conflicts are often billed as ideological battles, Burns believes animus is motivated by some people's desire to control the biological rights of others, like reproductive rights. And while the assumption is that people who involve themselves in violent conflict are sociopaths void of empathy, they may actually be highly empathetic people, but with a strong bias toward their in-group. Burns is working with DARPA, the military's experimental research wing, to develop narrative structures which might elicit sympathy between opposed populations and across battle lines. 

Photo credit:

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images
Mind & Brain

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

Keep reading Show less

34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
Keep reading Show less

How pharmaceutical companies game the patent system

When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.

Top Video Splash
  • When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
  • When this happens in the pharmaceutical world, certain companies stay at the top of the ladder, through broadly-protected patents, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
  • Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation — "tweaks" — the same as product invention.