Brain structure varies depending on how trusting people are of others, study shows
News Mar 05, 2015
A recent study from the University of Georgia shows differences in brain structure according to how trusting people are of others.
The research may have implications for future treatments of psychological conditions such as autism, said the study's lead author Brian Haas, an assistant professor in the department of psychology. Each autism diagnosis is on a spectrum and varies, but some diagnosed with the condition exhibit problems trusting other people.
"There are conditions, like autism, that are characterized by deficits in being able to process the world socially, one of which is the ability to trust people," Haas said. "Here we have converging evidence that these brain regions are important for trust; and if we can understand how these differences relate to specific social processes, then we may be able to develop more targeted treatment techniques for people who have deficits in social cognition."
Haas and his team of researchers used two measures to determine the trust levels of 82 study participants.
Participants filled out a self-reported questionnaire about their tendency to trust others. They also were shown pictures of faces with neutral facial expressions and asked to evaluate how trustworthy they found each person in the picture. This gave researchers a metric, on a spectrum, of how trusting each participant was of others.
Researchers then took MRI scans of the participants' brains to determine how brain structure is associated with the tendency to be more trusting of others. What researchers found, said Haas, were differences in two areas of the brain.
"The most important finding was that the gray matter volume was greater in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, which is the brain region that serves to evaluate social rewards, in people that tended to be more trusting of others," he said.
"Another finding that we observed was for a brain region called the amygdala. The volume of this area of the brain, which codes for emotional saliency, was greater in those that were both most trusting and least trusting of others. If something is emotionally important to us, the amygdala helps us code and remember it."
Future studies may focus on how, and if, trust can be improved and whether the brain is malleable according to the type of communication someone has with another, he said.
Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
Brian W. Haas, Alexandra Ishak, Ian W. Anderson, Megan M. Filkowski. The tendency to trust is reflected in human brain structure. NeuroImage, Published February 15 2015. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.11.060
Researchers Find a Way to Separate Side Effects of Opioid Drugs Reducing RiskNews
Scientists have discovered a way to separate these two effects -- pain relief and breathing, opening a window of opportunity to make effective pain medications without the risk of respiratory failure.READ MORE
Biological Mechanism of a Leading Cause of Childhood Blindness RevealedNews
Scientists have revealed the pathology of cells and structures stricken by optic nerve hypoplasia, a leading cause of childhood blindness in developed nations.READ MORE
Machine Learning: Helping Determine How a Drug Affects the BrainNews
Machine learning could improve our ability to determine whether a new drug works in the brain, potentially enabling researchers to detect drug effects that would be missed entirely by conventional statistical tests, finds a new UCL study published today in Brain.READ MORE