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Burn him? Hang him? Or let him go? New research illuminates how the human brain decides the severity of a criminal’s punishment, scientists say.
Several brain regions do battle in determining the appropriate level of justice, depending on the person’s level of guilt, a study has found.
Often, people demand swift and severe punishment, particularly when the crime involves bodily harm to others and is relayed in gruesome detail. Yet certain brain regions can override this gut emotional response when the harm was not intentional, regardless of how shocking the incident was.
In a new study, researchers found that maltreatment affects the way children’s genes are activated, which has implications for their long-term development and health. The researchers examined DNA methylation, a biomechanical mechanism that helps cells control which genes are turned on or off, in the blood of 56 children ages 11 to 14. Disruptions in this system affect emotional behavior, stress levels, and the immune system.