Scientists Explore Zapping Brains To Decrease People’s Criminal Intentions

A study discovered that zapping certain parts of the brain could decrease a person's intentions to commit violent crimes.

Scientists exploring how brain zaps affects criminal intentions.
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A study discovered that zapping certain parts of the brain could decrease a person's intentions to commit violent crimes.

Some people have long wondered why certain people commit violent crimes. Now, some scientists believe that they have found a way to possibly decrease someone’s likelihood of committing criminal acts. The method? Zapping the brain.

A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore asked people to consider two hypothetical scenarios and rate the possibility of them carrying out the criminal acts. One hypothetical scenario described hitting someone over the head with a beer bottle because they were hitting on their girlfriend. The second hypothetical scenario described foreplay leading to date rape, according to The Guardian.

The people who had their brains zapped reportedly were 47 percent to 70 percent less likely to rate themselves as potentially committing these crimes.

The study involved 39 volunteers, with one group receiving the brain zaps for 20 minutes and the placebo group receiving the brain zaps for just 30 seconds. A day later, the volunteers were asked to rate their likelihood of carrying out criminal acts.

The brain zaps targeted people’s prefrontal cortex. The “transcranial direct current stimulation” that was applied was around 2 milliAmps of currents. By zapping that particular region of the brain, researchers believe that it would affect a person’s likelihood to exhibit antisocial behavior.

The prefrontal cortex is thought to affect a person’s planning, reasoning, and inhibition, detailed the Washington Post. One of the researchers, Adrian Raine, described the method.

“Zapping offenders with an electrical current to fix their brains sounds like pulp fiction, but it might not be as crazy as it sounds… This study goes some way toward documenting a causal association by showing that enhancing the prefrontal cortex puts the brakes on the impulse to act aggressively.”

The correlation between people who found the hypothetical situations morally wrong with the brain zaps have led some researchers to believe that could be a sort of “treatment” for criminal minds.

Even scientists see the correlation between this study and other works of fiction, as Dr. Paul Appelbaulm from the Divison of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University said that “We’re a long way from ‘Clockwork Orange.'”

The study is only indicative of the possibilities of changing people’s behavior with brain zaps, however. The people in the study were asked to stick pins into an image of a doll resembling a close friend, and those who had their brains zapped actually stuck more pins in the dolls than those that were not zapped, according to Stat News.