Although it is unlikely that rDLPFC will enter the textbooks as the seat of the law in the brain, this intriguing new study by Buckholtz underscores the role of this region in high-level cognitive processes in general, and judgment and decision-making in particular. More specifically, it illustrates that third-person judgment situations, such as those used in their study, may rely on similar neural mechanisms as two-person economic and social exchanges, and highlights rDLPFC as a candidate for the neural suppression of impulsive reactions in these situations. So, should you punish John for the murder, despite his brain tumor? Of course! says your gut. Not so fast, says your rDLPFC.
Are you a scientist? Have you recently read a peer-reviewed paper that you want to write about? Then contact Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer, the science writer behind the blog The Frontal Cortex and the book Proust Was a Neuroscientist. His next book, How We Decide, will be available in February 2009.