The Science behind Altruism

This week’s Economist reports on a study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which investigated the neural basis for unselfish acts. Researchers examined the responses of the brain when giving anonymously to charity.

They found that the part of the brain that was active when a person donated happened to be the brain's reward centre—the mesolimbic pathway, to give it its proper name—responsible for doling out the dopamine-mediated euphoria associated with sex, money, food and drugs. … But it seems there is more to altruism. Donating also engaged the part of the brain that plays a role in the bonding behaviour between mother and child, and in romantic love.

While the volunteers and donors who sustain Habele have long taken satisfaction in empowering Outer Island students, it is none the less exciting to hear there is an observable and bio-psychological basis for this!