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A neurological reason why pro bono feels bono

Research reported in the Economist, Oct. 14, 2006 at 86, may explain why in-house lawyers who take part in pro bono programs feel good about it. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) to map brain activity when volunteers decided to donate money.

The part of the brain that activated happened to be the brain’s reward center – the mesolimbic pathway – “responsible for doling out the dopamine-mediated euphoria associated with sex, money, food and drugs.” Thus the warm glow that pro bono service lights may have a neurological and physiological basis (See my post of Feb. 12, 2006 on the amygdala’s powers; May 30, 2006 on neuroscience and leadership; and Aug. 16, 2006 on another aspect of brain physiology.).

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