By showing people images of hated ex-lovers or colleagues, and simultaneously scanning their brains, researchers identified areas of activity that constitute the “hate circuit.” It is distinct from brain activity related to emotions such as fear, threat and danger, but it shares a part of the brain associated with aggression, researchers said.
"Like love, hate is often seemingly irrational and can lead individuals to heroic and evil deeds," said Zeki. "How can two opposite sentiments lead to the same behavior?"
The study reports that the "hate circuit" includes structures in both the cortex and sub-cortex of the brain and has components that are important in generating aggressive behavior. It also involves a part of the frontal cortex that has been considered critical in predicting the actions of others, probably an important feature when one is confronted by a hated person.
The subcortical activity involves two distinct structures, the putamen and the insula, the researchers said. Both structures have also been found to be activated by romantic love, said Zeki.
"The putamen could be involved in the preparation of aggressive acts in a romantic context, as in situations when a rival presents a danger," he explained. "The insula may be involved in responses to distressing stimuli, and the viewing of both a loved and a hated face may constitute such a distressing signal."
A distinction from romantic love is that hate can be directed at entire groups of people, as is the case with racial, political, or gender hatred, said the researchers.
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