After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen

Monday, 21 May 2012
The Neurobiology of Charity

mendiant As the holiday season approaches, a traditional time for charitable giving, what do we know about this behaviour from a neuroscientific standpoint? Well, first of all, we know that it activates the brain’s dopaminergic reward circuits. We also now know that the old saying “It’s better to give than to receive” has a neurobiological basis: these reward circuits are typically activated more when you give money, for example, than when you receive it.

However, studies such as those by Paul Slovic’s research team have shown that we are more inclined to be generous when we are shown an identifiable victim (for instance, a photo of a starving child in an African refugee camp) than when we are shown statistics documenting a far more sweeping problem (that millions of African children are malnourished). In an experiment where subjects were given $5 in $1 bills and asked to make donations, the donations averaged $2.50 when the subjects were told about an identifiable starving child, but only about 50 cents when they were told about the same problem on a broader scale.

Thus, our decision whether to give or not seems to be grounded directly in the emotions that another human being can arouse in us, far more than in any rational analysis of statistics, however striking. And nothing could be more natural, when you consider our long evolutionary history, in which contact with other human beings has always been of the greatest importance for a social species such as ours.

Many charities have long taken advantage of this behavioural phenomenon in their advertising. But now that you know that it is at work in your brain, perhaps you can make somewhat more conscious decisions about where giving your money will do the most good (and give you the most pleasure).

i_lien To give or not to give: It’s all about the brain
a_lien To Increase Charitable Donations, Appeal to the Heart — Not the Head
i_lien The Frontal Cortex (Jonah Lehrer’s Blog)

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