Fri, October 31, 2008

Brain's "hate circuit" identified

2008-10-30 19:42:01 GMT2008-10-31 03:42:01 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- People who view pictures of someone they hate display activity in distinct areas of the brain that, together, may be thought of as a "hate circuit," according to new research published in the latest issue of U.S. online journal PLoS One, available here on Thursday.

The study, by scientists at University College London, examined the brain areas that correlate with the sentiment of hate and shows that the "hate circuit" is distinct from those related to emotions such as fear, threat and danger -- although it shares a part of the brain associated with aggression.

The circuit is also quite distinct from that associated with romantic love, though it shares at least two common structures with it.

The results are an extension of previous studies on the brain mechanisms of romantic and maternal love from the same research team.

To compare their present results with their previous ones on romantic love, researchers specifically studied hate directed against an individual. Seventeen subjects, both female and male, had their brains scanned while viewing pictures of their hated person as well as that of neutral faces with which they were familiar.

They found that the "hate circuit" includes structures in the cortex and in the sub-cortex and has components that are important in generating aggressive behavior, and translating this into action through motor planning, as if the brain becomes mobilized to take some action. It also involves a part of the frontal cortex that has been considered critical in predicting the actions of others, probably an important feature when one is confronted by a hated person.

Unlike romantic love, which is directed at one person, hate can be directed against entire individuals or groups, as is the case with racial, political, or gender hatred. Researchers said that these different varieties of hate will be the subject of future studies.

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