An original way to reduce crimes rates could lie in regulating neural activity in a person’s front of the brain — right lateral prefrontal cortex. Scientists from the University of Zurich have found a brain mechanism responsible for social norm compliance is separate from the processes that represents a person’s knowledge and beliefs about societal norms. The neurons in this specific brain region may be controlled by electric shock therapy which could potentially stop criminals from breaking the law, according to a recent study.

Findings published online in the journal Science unveiled neurons in social norm compliance area of the brain could be both up and down regulated by transcranial direct current stimulation — a technique that sends weak, painless electric currents through the skull by electric shock therapy. The researchers examined how neural stimulation in the prefrontal cortex can influence a person’s decision to follow a fairness social norm in 63 volunteers through a series of two experiments.

In the first experiment, the participants received a considerable amount of money and were then asked to decide how much of it they wanted to share with an anonymous partner. For the second experiment, the participants were faced with the same decision but this time they knew in advanced that they would receive a punishment if the money wasn’t distributed evenly. The researchers used electric shock therapy to either increase or decrease neural activity in the participants’ right lateral prefrontal cortex.

The researchers discovered the participants were inclined to follow the punishment fairness norm more strongly when the cells in the social norm compliance region of the brain were artificially stimulated while voluntary generosity decreased. In comparison, the participants were more obliged to follow the fairness norm on a voluntarily basis when the researchers decreased neural activity.

“Our findings show a socially and evolutionarily important aspect of human behavior depends on a specific neural mechanism that can be both up and down regulated with brain stimulation,” said Researcher Professor Christian Ruff, the Daily Mail reports.

The decision to follow the fairness norm, whether it’s done voluntarily or done under a threat, is directly influenced by electric shock therapy in the prefrontal cortex.

Similarly, doctors have used electrical aversion therapy to eliminate negative behaviors and modify behavior. Although the procedure is safe, it does deliver an uncomfortable electrical shock that is commonly administrated in the forearm, leg, or fingers, says Yahoo! Health. For behavior modifications, the electric shock is paired with the unwanted behavior of the patient. For example, smoking addicts will receive electric shocks when the individual smokes cigarettes as a means for the smoker to link their habit with discomfort instead of pleasure.

Electric shock treatment may offer some insight in how to modify behavior in offenders who continually break the law. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “crime clock” indicates a violent crime occurs every 25.3 seconds in the United States as violent crime has risen about one percent nationally according to the latest report. Violent crime