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Psychology: Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex

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Write about the Psychology for Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex.




In the recent years, there have been several studies that have focused on the function of ventromedial prefrontal cortex, also referred as the medial orbitofrontal cortex. However, any kind of focal liaisons in this area of the brain may cause an abnormal egocentric pattern in the moral judgment. The studies have shown that these focal damages in this area of brain are mostly conflicting in nature and also heterogeneous (Taber-Thomas et al., 2014). This article examines the contrast in the patients with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions acquired in the developmental phase and in the adult ages. The evidences have suggested that the lesions are a crucial neural substrate which may go beyond the self interest of the patient.


Theories used in the Article

Different studies regarding the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions have suggested that these lesions to this area of the brain may have an impact on the reward processing or may influence the motivational features. However, it is also possible that the lack of motivation in the human behavior may cause for other reasons as well. Therefore, the researchers have demonstrated the trouble in making decisions to be an outcome of ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions. The cognitive tasks of a human being may be affected through lesions in this area. A human being who is affected with ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions may have issues in the situations with risks and other alteration with the autonomic anticipatory responses. This study has taken two different groups of individuals who have developmental lesions in the ventromedial PFC under the age of sixteen and another group of individuals with the developmental onset liaisons outside this region of the brain. 

Other Research Articles the at Provide a Background to the Primary DRR Article

The maturation in the judgment process can be considered as the characteristic of the human moral development that is developed during the childhood and the adolescent period. Scholars have indicated several features of the moral development; therefore there are two related researches that set the platform for these neuropsychological studies. The first one is the seminal work of Kohlberg that is concerned with the deep rooted development in terms of social emotions and abstract reasoning. The second research that provides a background for the present study is the impact of the functions of ventromedial prefrontal cortex (PFC) for the emotional and social thoughts or the moral development (Taber-Thomas et al., 2014). The patients with this disorder are seen to have abnormality in the moral development and express an abnormal judgment in the socially controversial situations.


The Reason for Conducting the Study

The previous studies have indicated that the dysfunction of ventromedial prefrontal cortex may have a crucial role in the neuro-developmental disorder such as psychopathy. The previous researches have indicated that the functions of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex are necessary for the natural moral development in an individual (Hebscher et al., 2015). This study was conducted to exhibit the relationship between the naturally healthy group and the individuals who had issues with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in their developmental phase. Previously, the authors have conducted two studies on individuals with this disorder who were shown with lack of empathy and unethical behavior.  The social issues in those two patients were more than it is seen in the patients with the adult-onset ventromedial PFC lesions. The evidences indicate that any dysfunction in the early years can cause the immaturity of the adult-onset ventromedial PFC but damage causing the later life may not affect the initial stages of the moral development. Therefore, this particular study has been conducted with the neurological patients that are put into empirical test.

The Way of Conducting the Study

The researchers had evaluated their initial findings about the individuals with the developmental-onset ventromedial PFC injury that might show self centered moral judgments while taking control of the moral situations with lower conflicts. The resulted have indicated to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex having a significant role to play in the moral development. The researchers have also compared and contrasted to the patients with developmental-onset ventromedial PFC and the ones with damages outside the ventromedial PFC and the healthy adults who have no neurological issues (Taber-Thomas et al., 2014). The patients had to make judgments about fifty hypothetical situations. After the description of each scenario, there was a question with the options of ‘yes or no’. The moral situations were either with low or high moral conflict. Therefore the researchers analyzed the data nueroanatomically.

Findings and Application

The findings of Taber-Thomas et al. (2014) support the previous predictions. In the lower conflict situations the developmental-onset ventromedial PFC group has shown more self centered decisions than the other groups. The in groups differences were particular in the lower conflict situations. However, in the non moral situations there were no such noteworthy differences between the groups. As a support to the previous predictions, the damages in the ventromedial PHC were associated with the self centered actions. However, the patients having damages with the age of five were seen to have more impairment. The researchers have also evaluated a model that tested the ventromedial PFC damage in the higher conflict situations show differences between the groups.


Impact of the Findings on the Subsequent Research

From the findings of this research indicate that one should understand the psychological development of the moral growth for understanding the development of anti social behavior. The patients with the damages of the in the ventromedial PFC in their early ages had indicated the notion whether different areas of brain is accountable for different social behavior of an individual. The findings of data from the patients with ventromedial PFC damage had shown more self centered decisions in the situations with moral conflicts. Those individuals tend to disobey the moral or ethical rules for their own good. An initial analysis had also suggested that damages within the age of five years are more harmful to the ventromedial PFC, therefore causing more self centered judgments (Taber-Thomas et al., 2014). However, damages in the adult ages may or may not have any impact on the moral developments and judgments. Even though the small number of patients can be considered as one of the limitations of thee study, but the study has a great impact on the neuro-biological study. The difference between the two groups has further indicated to the previous findings of the researchers.


Future Scope for Research

There are several chances of the future researches in this area as there have not been many studies in this area. It will be necessary to continue this study with other experiments with the different other stimulus and other experiments with moral reasoning. It is also necessary to conduct research with a larger number of patients. Keeping the basic findings of the research same, there can be several experiments on the neurological development of the patients with ventromedial PFC damage at different stages. This study only provides empirical evidence on the suggestion that the ventromedial PFC may have a significant impact on the maturity of the human moral development (Taber-Thomas et al., 2014). However, there is a future scope of research is this genre if the genetic and the other environmental factors are evaluated to find out whether the ventromedial PFC damage have the profound impact on making the self centered moral judgments. In the cases of children or the young adults, this result can be more prevalent and be more effective in understanding the human social and moral development.  These findings can pave the way of future researches in this field.


Reference List and Bibliography

Ghosh, V. E., Moscovitch, M., Colella, B. M., & Gilboa, A. (2014). Schema representation in patients with ventromedial PFC lesions. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(36), 12057-12070.

Hebscher, M., Barkan-Abramski, M., Goldsmith, M., Aharon-Peretz, J., & Gilboa, A. (2015). Memory, decision-making, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC): the roles of subcallosal and posterior orbitofrontal cortices in monitoring and control processes. Cerebral Cortex, bhv220.

Hogeveen, J., Hauner, K. K., Chau, A., Krueger, F., & Grafman, J. (2016). Impaired valuation leads to increased apathy following ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage. Cerebral Cortex, bhv317.

Levens, S. M., Larsen, J. T., Bruss, J., Tranel, D., Bechara, A., & Mellers, B. A. (2014). What might have been? The role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and lateral orbitofrontal cortex in counterfactual emotions and choice. Neuropsychologia, 54, 77-86.

Pujara, M. S., Wolf, R. C., Baskaya, M. K., & Koenigs, M. (2015). Ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage alters relative risk tolerance for prospective gains and losses. Neuropsychologia, 79, 70-75.

Sánchez-Navarro, J. P., Driscoll, D., Anderson, S. W., Tranel, D., Bechara, A., & Buchanan, T. W. (2014). Alterations of attention and emotional processing following childhood-onset damage to the prefrontal cortex. Behavioral neuroscience, 128(1), 1.

Taber-Thomas et al. (2014) – Arrested development: early prefrontal lesions impair the maturation of moral judgement [topic 2 – biological bases, chapter 3 & 4]

Taber-Thomas, B. C., Asp, E. W., Koenigs, M., Sutterer, M., Anderson, S. W., & Tranel, D. (2014). Arrested development: early prefrontal lesions impair the maturation of moral judgement. Brain, 137(4), 1254-1261.

Warren, D. E., Jones, S. H., Duff, M. C., & Tranel, D. (2014). False recall is reduced by damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex: implications for understanding the neural correlates of schematic memory. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(22), 7677-7682.

Wolf, R. C., Philippi, C. L., Motzkin, J. C., Baskaya, M. K., & Koenigs, M. (2014). Ventromedial prefrontal cortex mediates visual attention during facial emotion recognition. Brain, 137(6), 1772-1780.

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