Sure, X-men’s Magneto has a bad attitude shaped from a horrific childhood and the mistreatment of mutants. But a study published Wednesday in Science makes the case that if Magneto were of this world, having all those magnets close to his brain certainly wouldn’t help him be a hero.
Turns out that if magnets are placed near a particular part of the brain, you turn into a selfish person who can’t understand the perspectives of others. A team of Swiss and German researchers conducted two studies in which they used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on the temporo-parietal junction part of subject’s brains. Typically, TMS is a non-invasive procedure where electromagnetic coils are placed on the scalp near one’s forehead. The idea is that these coils can deliver a magnetic pulse to nerve cells that control mood; the procedure is typically used to help people with depression.
In this study, however, magnets were placed above the temporo-parietal junction — the area of the brain just above your ear. This is the part of the brain that’s involved in overcoming one’s self-centered perspective.
The researchers found that engaging the magnets in this area caused the subjects to discount and delay pro-social rewards. In other words, it lessened their likelihood of altruistic behavior and how much they cared about doing things that didn’t help them. TMS also resulted in the subjects experiencing a deficit in perspective-taking.
“Our findings substantiate a fundamental commonality between the domains of self-control and social making, and highlight a novel aspect of the neurocognitive processes involved in self-control,” the researcher write.
Magnets: Cool to put on the fridge, not cool to put on the brain.