A new Scientific American Mind has arrived and two of the feature articles are available online – one of which is on the neuroscience of violence.
The article makes a fantastic complement to the Science News article on psychopaths we featured previously.
It touches on psychopathy, but is more focused on the wider issues of non-psychopathic violence that could be triggered in anyone in the population.
Some people in the population engage in more violent acts than others and much research has focused on what are the social and biological risk factors that distinguish high from low-violence individuals.
The frontal lobes seems important as neural circuits here seem to be involved in preventing impulsive acts.
People who experience an abusive or impoverished childhood are also known to be at higher risk for violence, and it is possible that these experiences shape the function of the relevant circuits in the brain as it develops.
Genetics also plays a part, and recent findings that a version of a gene known as MAOA is linked to violence suggests that we may partly inherit a ‘violence threshold’. Brain Ethics has a fantastic article on this research if you want to know more.
The article also talks about the Dunedin project, an important and long-running study on development and psychopathology that has provided a huge amount of data in this, and many other areas.
The December edition of SciAmMind also has articles on the military applications of neuroscience, which we featured previously on Mind Hacks, and a number of articles only available to subscribers or in the print edition.
These include articles on migraine, hearing voices, cooperation, crying, brain-scan lie detecting and whether the teen brain is too rational.
UPDATE: I’ve just noticed that there’s a great article on Cognitive Daily examining a recent study on the interaction between guns, aggression and testosterone.
Link to SciAmMind article ‘The Violent Brain’.