- Published: November 30, 1999
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) involves magnetic fields that are used to stimulate a selected area of the brain. TMS is a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical method that alters brain function. TMS has been used to treat depression. It has also been used in other subjects to alter mood. If TMS can be used to activate or de-activate certain areas of the brain, then it may be possible to use TMS as a therapy to stimulate areas of the brain related to sociopathy or antisocial behavior. Individuals with antisocial behavior can be treated with TMS so that their brains can be stimulated to change the way the individual views the world. Areas of the brain that lead to the antisocial behavior may be deactivated by the stimulation. Through repeated treatments, the brain's regulation pathways may be altered.
If TMS becomes a possible therapeutic intervention, there are some questions that arise. One concern is whether TMS changes the individual so drastically that he or she is a different person. If this is the case, is it justified to change the person to benefit society? Another issue is if the treatment is worthwhile to pursue, since it may need to be administered regularly. Also, would the legal system have the ability to make it mandatory for criminals to undergo such treatment? If the treatment is effective in curtailing criminal behavior, should it be used? Further studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation are needed.
Farah, M.J. (2005). Neuroethics: the practical and the philosophical. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 34-40.
Serruya, M.D. & Kahana, M.J. (2008). Techniques and devices to restore cognition. Behavioural Brain Research, 192, 149-165.