Scientists claim that they can change the beliefs of individuals using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) which stimulates specific regions of the brain using small electric currents, according to Express. The findings are published in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Journal, and the results are being used to examine how the human brain resolves abstract ideological problems.
"People often turn to ideology when they are confronted by problems," said Keise Izuma, a co-author of the paper from the University of York. "We wanted to find out whether a brain region that is linked with solving concrete problems, like deciding how to move one's body to overcome an obstacle, is also involved in solving abstract problems addressed by ideology."
One of these brain regions is the posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC), which is associated with detecting and responding to problems and the area that was shut down using TMS during the experiment.
The study examined 38 participants, each of whom was pre-screened to ensure that they had extreme religious views and extremely conservative political beliefs, according to the Daily Mail. Half of these participants received TMS to their pMFC, whereas the other half were a control group that received no TMS.
The results found that those who had their pMFC temporarily disabled using TMS experienced a 32.8 percent decrease in their religious beliefs (in God, angels or heaven) and were 28.5 percent more positive when it came to their beliefs regarding immigrants who disliked their country, according to Medical Daily.
"We decided to remind people of death because previous research has shown that people turn to religion for comfort in the face of death," said Izuma. "As expected, we found that when we experimentally turned down the posterior medial frontal cortex, people were less inclined to reach for comforting religious ideas despite having been reminded of death."