Jorge Moll: A Savant of Generosity

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It is widely known that in 2004, a tsunami caused catastrophic devastation in Thailand. Countless stories of loss of property and lives have spawned from this unfortunate event. One story speaks about a couple (Petra & Simon) that was vacationing in a resort town on Thailand. On the fateful day of December 26, 2004, the tsunami struck which changed their life forever. Simon was killed and Petra was gravely injured. Despite a long recovery process, a year later, Petra had a great desire to return to the site of the tsunami devastation to assist children in the aftermath.

This courageous act of giving raises some questions. Why are we as humans compelled to give to others despite our own adversities? Why is there an overwhelming feeling of joy when we do something nice for someone? These are questions that Jorge Moll’s research attempts to answer.

Dr. Moll was once co-conducted an experiment with a team of neuroscientists (Idor). Their research included scanning the brains of subjects while they visualized either giving money to charity, or keeping the money for themselves. Another study involved having individuals actually contribute monetary donations to charities. Dr. Moll’s experiment had nineteen participants involved. Each had the possibility of receiving $128.00. To make things more interesting, each of the participants were given the option to donate, not donate or to receive money for themselves. There were times where the choice to donate or not to donate resulted in test subjects losing some of the $128.00. On average, $51.00 of the $128.00 was donated by the subjects and the rest was kept for themselves.

There was one amazing finding about the study that Dr. Moll participated in. The outcome of the experiment showed that when the study participants replaced their desires with the needs of others, the same part of the brain that activates in response to food or sex becomes activated. Therefore, the study helps to strengthen the argument that by giving to others, it can help one to be happier emotionally and physically. Dr. Jorge Moll’s groundbreaking work can truly serve as a catalyst to change the way we view helping others. Ultimately, by learning to help others, we can heal our own emotional wounds over time.

Jorge Moll is an accomplished neurologist hailing from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The thesis that he wrote in 2003 for his Ph.D. is entitled “fMRI In Moral Judgment and Sensitivity“. This title speaks directly to the work conducted by Dr. Moll in the experiment that showed the effects of altruism on the human brain. Part of Jorge Moll’s expertise is in studying neurofeedback in regards to empathy, charity, benevolence and attitude in their relation to the overall well-being of humans.