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Brain stimulation studies of social norm compliance: implications for personality disorders?


Ruff, Christian C (2018). Brain stimulation studies of social norm compliance: implications for personality disorders? Psychopathology, 51(2):105-109.

Abstract

Several personality disorders involve pathological behaviors that violate social norms, commonly held expectations about what ought to be done in specific situations. These symptoms usually emerge early in development, are persistent and hard to treat, and are often ego-syntonic. Here I present some recent brain stimulation studies suggesting that pathological changes in different aspects of norm-compliant behavior reflect dysfunctions of brain circuits involving distinct prefrontal brain areas. One set of studies shows that transcranial direct current stimulation of the right lateral prefrontal cortex changes the behavioral sensitivity to social incentives for norm-compliant behavior. Crucially, social norm compliance in response to such incentives could even be increased during excitatory stimulation, demonstrating that the affected neural process is a biological prerequisite for appropriate reaction to social signals that trigger norm compliance. In another set of studies, we show that stimulation of a different (more dorsal) part of the right prefrontal cortex enhances honesty in a realistic setting where participants had the opportunity to cheat for real monetary gains. Interestingly, these stimulation-induced increases in both socially cued or purely voluntary norm compliance were not linked to changes in other aspects of decision- making (such as risk or impatience), and they did not reflect changes in beliefs about what is appropriate behavior. These results suggest that disorders of distinct brain circuits may causally underlie egosyntotic changes in norm-compliant behavior. This raises the tantalizing possibility that pathologies of norm-compliant behavior may be ameliorated by interventions targeting the function of these brain circuits.

Abstract

Several personality disorders involve pathological behaviors that violate social norms, commonly held expectations about what ought to be done in specific situations. These symptoms usually emerge early in development, are persistent and hard to treat, and are often ego-syntonic. Here I present some recent brain stimulation studies suggesting that pathological changes in different aspects of norm-compliant behavior reflect dysfunctions of brain circuits involving distinct prefrontal brain areas. One set of studies shows that transcranial direct current stimulation of the right lateral prefrontal cortex changes the behavioral sensitivity to social incentives for norm-compliant behavior. Crucially, social norm compliance in response to such incentives could even be increased during excitatory stimulation, demonstrating that the affected neural process is a biological prerequisite for appropriate reaction to social signals that trigger norm compliance. In another set of studies, we show that stimulation of a different (more dorsal) part of the right prefrontal cortex enhances honesty in a realistic setting where participants had the opportunity to cheat for real monetary gains. Interestingly, these stimulation-induced increases in both socially cued or purely voluntary norm compliance were not linked to changes in other aspects of decision- making (such as risk or impatience), and they did not reflect changes in beliefs about what is appropriate behavior. These results suggest that disorders of distinct brain circuits may causally underlie egosyntotic changes in norm-compliant behavior. This raises the tantalizing possibility that pathologies of norm-compliant behavior may be ameliorated by interventions targeting the function of these brain circuits.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Clinical Psychology
Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Brain stimulation, ego-syntonic behavior, personality disorders, social norms, transcranial direct current stimulation
Language:English
Date:May 2018
Deposited On:06 Jun 2018 12:01
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 07:19
Publisher:Karger
ISSN:0254-4962
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1159/000486898
Official URL:https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/486898

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