This Drug Could Actually Turn You Into A More Caring Person

For years, activists have advocated for sensitivity toward inequality, and they may have finally found their solution in the form of a pill.

According to the Independent, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at San Francisco have discovered that extending the impact of dopamine -- a chemical in the brain connected to reward and motivation -- causes people to be more sensitive to inequality.

Participants were split into two groups that were given either a placebo, which is a pill containing harmless ingredients, or the FDA-approved drug tolcapone -- a drug that prolongs the effects of dopamine on the brain.

Tolcapone is currently used to treat Parkinson's disease by strengthening the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

After taking the pills, the participants played a game in which they had to divide money between themselves and an anonymous stranger.

The group that took tolcapone split the money in fairer divisions than their counterparts.

A co-principal investigator and UC Berkeley assistant business professor, Ming Hsu, said these findings prove the chemistry of the brain plays a significant role in one's compassion toward strangers.

Hsu added,

We typically think of fair-mindedness as a stable characteristic, part of one's personality. Our study doesn't reject this notion, but it does show how that trait can be systematically affected by targeting specific neurochemical pathways in the human brain.

Tolcapone could also be used to combat mental conditions that inhibit the ability to recognize the needs of others.

Hsu added,

Our study shows how studying basic scientific questions about human nature can, in fact, provide important insights into diagnosis and treatment of social dysfunctions.

Mental disorders that involve dopamine abnormalities include schizophrenia and addiction.

This study was originally published in the journal Current Biology.

Citations: People could become more compassionate by taking a drug that prolongs dopamines effects on the brain (The Independent)