Proneness to specific moral sentiments (e.g. pride, gratitude, guilt, indignation) has been linked with individual variations in functional MRI (fMRI) response within anterior brain regions whose lesion leads to inappropriate behaviour. However, the role of structural anatomical differences in rendering individuals prone to particular moral sentiments relative to others is unknown. Here, we investigated grey matter volumes (VBM8) and proneness to specific moral sentiments on a well-controlled experimental task in healthy individuals. Individuals with smaller cuneus, and precuneus volumes were more pride-prone, whereas those with larger right inferior temporal volumes experienced gratitude more readily. Although the primary analysis detected no associations with guilt- or indignation-proneness, subgenual cingulate fMRI responses to guilt were negatively correlated with grey matter volumes in the left superior temporal sulcus and anterior dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (right >left). This shows that individual variations in functional activations within critical areas for moral sentiments were not due to grey matter volume differences in the same areas. Grey matter volume differences between healthy individuals may nevertheless play an important role by affecting posterior cortical brain systems that are non-critical but supportive for the experience of specific moral sentiments. This may be of particular relevance when their experience depends on visuo-spatial elaboration. Published by Oxford University Press 2013.
Zahn, R., Garrido, G., Moll, J., & Grafman, J. (2014). Individual differences in posterior cortical volume correlate with proneness to pride and gratitude. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(11), 1676-1683. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nst158