Wed, May 15, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Mapping a killer’s brain

The idea that our genes, rather than our morals or upbringing, are mainly to blame for whether we become criminals or not is one of science’s biggest taboos. However, if we could identify would-be offenders at an early age and perhaps prevent a massacre, should we do so?

By Tim Adams  /  The Observer

Raine cites two very recent brain-imaging studies to back this up. One is a study in New Mexico in which prisoners are scanned on release.

“What they are discovering is that if the functioning of the anterior cingulate, part of the limbic system, is lower than normal before release, they are twice as likely to be reconvicted in the next three years. And that marker is more accurate a guide than all other social factors,” Raine says.

A second study apparently shows if a released prisoner has a significantly smaller volume in the amygdala, the almond-shaped part of the brain crucial for processing memory and emotion, he or she is three times more likely to reoffend.

“Now, this is only two studies, but what they are beginning to show is proof of concept, that if we added neurological factors into the equation we could do a better job at predicting future behavior,” he says.

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