Stroke victim cannot stop helping others after developing pathological generosity
2013-09-09 0:00

By Jennifer Smith | Mail Online

A man in Brazlil developed what doctors have called pathological generosity, after a stroke damaged parts of his brain causing his behaviour to change.

The 49-year-old began to give away money, food and drinks excessively after a stroke disrupted the part of his brain related to higher thinking and decision making.

Researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro concluded the man was left with ’excessive and persistent generosity’ by the stroke which was brought on by bleeding in his brain.

Doctors were able to determine the stroke occurred in a subcortical region of Mr A’s brain which controls higher level thinking, and therefore could have affected areas associated with regulating normal behavior.

It was caused by bleeding in the brain, a side effect of the man’s high blood pressure.

But, experts say knowing where the stroke occurred does not predict changes in behavior or personality, as the complexity of networks means an area not necessarily next to the injury can be affected.

Dr Larry Goldstein, a neurologist and director of the Stroke Centre at Duke University said: ’Although the observation of personality change is not that unusual, this particular one is apparently novel.’

The doctor told the Huffington Post: ’Stroke can cause a whole variety of neuropsychological and behavioral changes’, adding that brain damage caused by low oxygen supply can lead to emotional changes with depression being the most common.

Stroke has also been known to cause uncontrollable laughing or crying or neglect syndrome, in which people don’t recognize one side of their visual field.

Doctors at the University in Rio de Janeiro found Mr A’s case particularly interesting as it represented the opposite attitude to conditions which result from stroke more commonly, such as hoarding and sociopathy.

Studies have indicated in the past that certain brain structures, including the region which registers reward, have been involved in instances of generosity like donating anonymously donating to charity.

The researchers said Mr A’s condition could shed light on the relationship between ’altruism and egoism’ which are crucial to decision making.

According to his wife, the man spent his money on food and drink for children in the street, and was incapable of resuming his managerial job within a large corporation after the stroke.

When asked by researchers if he wanted to return to work, he reportedly said he had worked enough and that it was time to ’enjoy life which is too short.’

Mr A told doctors he was aware of changes in his behavior and claimed he ’saw death from close up’ and wanted to ’be in high spirits’ from then onwards.

Other streaks of generous behavior have been linked to people with mania, dementia and Parkinson’s disease when treated, but Mr A showed no symptoms of such conditions when psychologically evaluated.


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Tune into Red Ice Radio to hear guest Barbra Oakley speak on Pathological Altruism:

Barbara Oakley - Hour 1 - Pathological Altruism

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