Does Doing Good Make You Happier? Dr. Jorge Moll Believes So

Dr. Jorge Moll has always been fascinated by the working of the human brain and how psychology and neurology meet and affect human behavior. He has received many honors for his work in this field, including the Visiting Scholar Awards from Stanford Neuroscience Institute and the Nation Institute of Health’s Research Fellow award. He also has been elected to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences as an affiliate member and elected to the International Neuroethics Societies Governors Board. He is now the research group leader and president of the D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR) in Rio de JanEIro.


Some of the recent research conducted at the IDOR under Dr. Jorge Moll’s leadership examines how altruistic behavior is processed by the brain. For this project, Dr. Moll partnered with João Ascenso, a doctoral student in psychology at IDOR. They want to understand exactly how donating our time, money, attention, affection, etc. can impact our brains. They used Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to observe the brains “reward centers”. These are the areas that react when we do an activity that makes us happy. They found that the subjects tested had responses in the rewards center that were just as strong when they gave to somebody else as they were when the subject received a gift.


Furthermore, the act of altruism activated the Septal area and the Subgenual Cortex in the brain, both of which are related to feelings of belonging or attachment. These areas are often involved in activities such as romantic relationships and mother and child bonding. This indicates that by executing the act of giving, your brain activates in a manner that encourages human bonding. This indicates an evolutionary need for relationships.


The IDOR does much more research, including looking into oncology, pediatrics, and medicine in addition to neuroscience. IDOR is mainly sponsored by the D’Or São Luiz Hospital Network. The IDOR has operated separately from the hospital network since 2010.

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