Jorge Moll Explains How the Brain Processes Human Values as Altruism

Jorge Moll On Altruism, His Surprising Discovery

It’s common sense knowledge that doing good makes everyone feel good. But it is harder to know how exactly good actions – like donating money, time, attention, affection, volunteer work, etc. – impacts our brain. Jorge Moll, a neuroscientist, and president of the D’Or Institute for Research and Education, along with psychologist João Ascenso, a doctoral student at the Institute, were able to explain how the brain processes altruistic behavior.

Through functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), researchers have observed that the areas of the brain associated and activated by pleasurable events and activities – the so-called “reward centers” – were also “turned on” when the participants donated to charities. This response was as intense as when they received something for themselves.

The experiment of Jorge Moll and João Ascenso also revealed that the act of doing good selectively activated two brain regions: the Subgenual Cortex and the Septal area. Both are related to the feeling of attachment and belonging. These areas are involved, for example, in the bonding experience between a mother and her child, or in a romantic relationship.

“In other words, when you act in favor of an important cause or principle, you are activating a system that has been developed over millions of years in order to foster friendship and family bonds,” said D’Or Institute neuroscientist Jorge Moll.

D’Or Institute for Research and Education is a non-profit organization that aims to promote scientific and technological advances in the health sector. The institution develops several initiatives in the areas of medical education and clinical research. Areas of expertise include Intensive Medicine, Internal Medicine, Neurosciences, Paediatrics, and Oncology.

Currently, the D’Or Institute for Research and Education has its own Doctoral Program in Medical Sciences, as well as effective partnerships with Stricto Sensu Postgraduate Programs run by public universities in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, the entity chaired by Jorge Moll maintains scientific cooperation ties with several national and international research and teaching institutions.

Born within the D’Or São Luiz Hospital Network, the D’Or Institute operates independently from its own headquarters since 2010. The hospital network, the largest private one in Brazil, is still its main sponsor (


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here