Fair Drug

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Published: March 25, 2015 12:20:06 AM

Now, you can pop a pill if you suffer from a chronic deficiency of compassion

What would you prescribe for chronic lack of compassion? Research at the University of California indicates popping the right dose of Tolcapone, a drug that is used to control Parkinson’s (a degenerative central nervous system afflicting the prefrontal cortex of the brain) could induce attributes such as heightened compassion and fair behaviour in humans. As per the findings of the double-blind study, published in Current Biology, a peer-reviewed journal, test subjects who received the drug that prolongs the effects of dopamine—a brain chemical that mediates communications between neurons—divided money they received more fairly with strangers than subjects who received a placebo.

While compassion, fairness, empathy, etc, have been long assumed to be influenced by social conditioning, the study shows that neuro-chemical pathways could be just as crucial a determinant. Ignacio Saez, the principal investigator in the study and a researcher at the Haas School of Business, University of California, believes that a person’s aversion to inequity could have lot to do with her brain chemistry. Getting back to the question posed at the outset, there is indeed a pill that can be popped to remedy the deficiency of compassion or a sense of fairness. However, the delicious irony here is that how fair will it be to rely on drug-induced personality traits!

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