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Homeland Security Articles

The Criminal Mind

By ACFEI Staff2, CHS-III      ( 1 ) Comments   |   Published On Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

The Criminal Mind

Excerpts from the Wall Street Journal’s article by Dr Adrian Raine, Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania:

“The field of neurocriminology—using neuroscience to understand and prevent crime—is revolutionizing our understanding of what drives "bad" behavior. More than 100 studies of twins and adopted children have confirmed that about half of the variance in aggressive and antisocial behavior can be attributed to genetics…
Brain-imaging techniques are identifying physical deformations and functional abnormalities that predispose some individuals to violence. In one recent study, brain scans correctly predicted which inmates in a New Mexico prison were most likely to commit another crime after release. Nor is the story exclusively genetic: A poor environment can change the early brain and make for antisocial behavior later in life.

Most people are still deeply uncomfortable with the implications of neurocriminology…
It is growing harder and harder, however, to avoid the mounting evidence. With each passing year, neurocriminology is winning new adherents, researchers and practitioners who understand its potential to transform our approach to both crime prevention and criminal justice…

As for environmental factors that affect the young brain, lead is neurotoxic and particularly damages the prefrontal region, which regulates behavior. Measured lead levels in our bodies tend to peak at 21 months—an age when toddlers are apt to put their fingers into their mouths… Rising lead levels in the U.S. from 1950 through the 1970s neatly track increases in violence 20 years later, from the '70s through the '90s. (Violence peaks when individuals are in their late teens and early 20s.) As lead in the environment fell in the '70s and '80s—thanks in large part to the regulation of gasoline—violence fell correspondingly. No other single factor can account for both the inexplicable rise in violence in the U.S. until 1993 and the precipitous drop since then…

About 1% of us are psychopaths—fearless antisocials who lack a conscience. In 2009, Yaling Yang, Robert Schug and I conducted structural brain scans on 27 psychopaths whom we had found in temporary-employment agencies in Los Angeles. All got high scores on the Psychopathy Checklist, the "gold standard" in the field, which assesses traits like lack of remorse, callousness and grandiosity. We found that, compared with 32 normal people in a control group, psychopaths had an 18% smaller amygdala, which is critical for emotions like fear and is part of the neural circuitry underlying moral decision-making… Psychopaths know at a cognitive level what is right and what is wrong, but they don't feel it…
There is no question that neurocriminology puts us on difficult terrain, and some wish it didn't exist at all. How do we know that the bad old days of eugenics are truly over? …We can avoid such dire outcomes. A more profound understanding of the early biological causes of violence can help us take a more empathetic, understanding and merciful approach toward both the victims of violence and the prisoners themselves. It would be a step forward in a process that should express the highest values of our civilization.”

SOURCE: The full article may be found at The Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323335404578444682892520530.html



Rhonda C. Martin, CHS-I
Published On Saturday, May 18th, 2013

This article on neurocriminalogy and the mind of sociopaths is very interesting. Additional funding in this area would be a necessity. Sociopaths certainly wreak havik not only in the criminal justice system, but more often in families where the pathology goes undetected and the criminal activity unreported.

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