Abstract: The neuroscience of morality has focused on how morality works and where it is in the brain. In tackling these questions, researchers have taken both domain-speciﬁc and domain-general approaches—searching for neural substrates and systems dedicated to moral cognition versus characterizing the contributions of domain-general processes. Where in the brain is morality? On one hand, morality is made up of complex cognitive processes, deployed across many domains and housed all over the brain. On the other hand, no neural substrate or system that uniquely supports moral cognition has been found. In this review, we will discuss early assumptions of domain-speciﬁcity in moral neuroscience as well as subsequent investigations of domain-general contributions, taking emotion and social cognition (i.e., theory of mind) as case studies. Finally, we will consider possible cognitive accounts of a domain-speciﬁc morality: Does uniquely moral cognition exist?
Neuroimaging studies often attempt to connect behavior with physical characteristics of the brain in terms of identifying neuroanatomical aspects of psychological conditions (e.g., aggression to psychopathy). This paper tries to connect cognitive processes with structure asking where is morality located? Researchers examined the literature answering that it was found all over the brain; ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), the left medial orbitofrontal cortex and medial Brodmann area 10 (ed. see comments), when moral situation statements were used. These are areas associated with risk, fear and cognitive processing of decision-making, respectively. The other locations were the right medial orbitofrontal cortex and medial frontal gyrus, and lower medial Brodmann area - when visual stimulus was used. These areas of the limbic system are involved in emotion, reward, behavior and memory.
As such, the researchers define morality as a combination of characteristics such as emotion and theory of mind, which encompasses a full range of mental states (beliefs, desires, intentions and imagination) that cause action. This paper finds ..."not necessarily the moral brain, but the engagement of the emotional brain and the social brain during moral cognition”. So, the end suggestion seems to better define precisely what we are looking for in terms of morality, then we can better hone in on where “it” may be.
Where in the brain is morality? Everywhere and maybe nowhere. (May 2011) Young, L., Dungan, J., Soc Neurosci. P.1-10. [Epub ahead of print] DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2011.569146