The Seven Deadly Sins.

The seven deadly sins deep within our brains.

Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Envy, Pride, Wrath and Greed [1].

- A BBC Focus report.

January 29th, 2010 - by Simon Laub - Email:

According to a BBC Focus report it is now possible to see our darkest impulses in MRI scanners!

Neurologists at Northwestern University have invoked emotions in volunteers, emotions linked to sins! With the volunteers sitting in the lab, the neurologists can then find out what is going on inside the volunteers heads with a brain scan.


The ancient limbic system, buried deep inside our brains, fires up when we are watching something we fancy.

Structures like the nucleus accumbens, involved on pleasure and craving, are at the heart of the system.

We are hardwired for lust - to pass on our genes. And to make sure that we eat. Organism should reproduce and they should eat, so the reward systems sees these things as nice.



Throughout most of our evolutionary history [2] life was difficult. So the brained were designed for such circumstances.
Eat when you can. You dont know when the next meal is coming. I.e. the reward centers
for obese people are less responsive to the dopamine signal. They need more food to produce a sensation of happiness.


The tendency to do nothing also makes sense according to evolution. You dont know when your next meal is coming.
So save your calories to repair your body. Probably, the prefrontal cortex dont give you the instructions to go out and do something,
unless it is really necessary.


When volunteers are presented with a description of a person of the same sex, who is highly intelligent, and has the same life goals,
as the volunteers. And who is a real hit with the opposite sex.
The brain region anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) goes crazy.
The same region responsible for processing physical pain.
So it really, really hurts.
In mother natures thinking this should motivate us to improve our own performance, or - if it is to difficult to beat the rival -
to change our goal or interest.
- Or it could make people want something bad to happen to other people...

When something bad happens to rivals the ventral striatum lights up in scans. Schadenfreude makes people happy.


At Montclair State university they have been knocking out certain parts of the brain using transcranial magnetic stimulation.
A magnetic coil is placed near the subjects head, disrupting the firing of neurons inside the brain, temporarily.
Aimed at the forehead, so the magnetic field hits the medial prefrontal cortex, the usual self enhancement is switched off.
Now, all of a sudden, pride is switched off.
And perhaps depression is switched on? Without pride, subjects tend not to see themselves in the usual very flattering light,
but in a pretty realistic light.


The limbic system gets all fired up when we feel anger. Including the Amygdala, involved in emotional responses. The dorsal anterior cingulate detects conflicts.

The medial prefrontal cortex should then hopefully moderate behaviour. NB. Psychopaths have poorer connections between their Amygdala and their prefrontal cortex compared to others of same age and IQ.




As with Gluttony one can speculate that the reward centers fires in an inappropiate way.
But according to the BBC focus report - no study has been carried out yet.


Simon Laub