The dark patch of death

We’ve covered some dodgy neuroscience journalism in our time but The Daily Mail has such as amazing piece of tosh, I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be serious or the result of huffing bathroom cleaner.

Now I try and avoid writing about The Daily Mail because it’s so science impaired it’s a bit like complaining that your pantomime horse won’t gallop properly.

But this is just amazing.

Where evil lurks: Neurologist discovers ‘dark patch’ inside the brains of killers and rapists

Hmmm, this sounds like it’s going to be a sensational piece of nonsense. I wonder what the ‘dark patch’ refers to?

A German neurologist claims to have found the area of the brain where evil lurks in killers, rapists and robbers.

It’s not looking good. Evil doesn’t ‘lurk’ in any part of the brain.

Bremen scientist Dr Gerhard Roth says the ‘evil patch’ lies in the brain’s central lobe and shows up as a dark mass on X-rays.

Evil patch? X-rays? Dark mass? But sweet Jesus in heaven. WHERE THE FUCK IS THE CENTRAL LOBE?

Screw the ‘dark patch’ these evil-doers have grown another lobe. The man has discovered mutant three-lobe killer rapists.

Believe it or not, it actually gets worse.

I could explain where the article has gone wrong but I’m too busy pushing furniture up against the windows. You won’t take me alive creatures of darkness!

Link to it’s not satire if written while high on cleaning products.


  1. rcarosin
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    me neither… gotta lock myself away from myself!!!!

  2. Posted February 6, 2013 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Two words: Shatner’s bassoon.

  3. Posted February 6, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    if only we could time travel and make hitler’s “lower forehead brain” “light up” !

  4. Selina
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you for making me laugh out loud on my way to my master if psychology lecture. This type of nero-babble does not reflect the profession. You discuss in such a humourous way thankyou

  5. BenD
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I know getting into Daily Mail comment sections is insanity, but this one just keeps giving.

    “This is scientific nonsense,” …ok, good start… “this is so the state can get rid of ‘dissidents’ or anyone they don’t like by claiming they are potential killers.” …annnd there it is.

  6. Joe Butler
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I was emailed the story this morning, whilst I agree that the Daily Mail has wrote a load of bollox, I was intrigued by the “central lobe”.

    I googled it, and it seems like the term has been used before in journal articles. (e.g. There was another article, but can’t find it now & don’t have the time to hunt around).

    So now I’m sort of interested to know if this is an actual term (part of me thinks maybe, because despite never having heard of the journal I linked above, you would think the editors/reviewers have a grasp of neuroanatomy). Is it maybe a rarely used term, in the medic circles or something similar?

    At first I thought maybe the Daily Mail got the information from a press release that they’d translated from German to English using Google Translate, and it was an error that way, but maybe it’s an actual term? Just one that most of the neuroscience community has never heard of. Anybody have any ideas?

  7. Joe Butler
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Actually here’s another one:

    Any ideas on the origin of the term?

  8. dante
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    just my two cents as a psychology student from Bremen. :)
    -the frontal lobe is called “Frontallapen or Stirnlappen” in German, so this can´t really be a translation error, there is no “Zentrallappen” in German.
    -I have read the paper, its an MRT-Study amongst a sample of the prison population and Roth suggests that criminals might have a reduced mass in the prefrontal cortex which he links to problems with inhibition of impulsive behaviour. So nothing really new or special.

  9. jan
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    @dante Thanks! Can you provide a Linkt to the paper or its title?

  10. dante
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    @jan He´s published extensively on the issue. A good starting point would be “Sex, aggression and impulse control: an integrative account.” Neurocase. 2008;14(1):93-121. and “Neurophysiological correlates of laboratory-induced aggression in young men with and without a history of violence.” PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22599.

  11. Posted February 8, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    You have *got* to put one of those Facebook “like” buttons on MindHacks!

  12. Posted February 8, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Probly just some fungi.

  13. Posted February 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    The Talmud advises: “We don’t see the world as it is; we see the world as WE are.” Better be careful of that Dr. Roth!

  14. RaoulDuke
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    When you said “WHERE THE FUCK IS THE CENTRAL LOBE?” I instantly thought of Fear and Loathing where Johnny Depp yells out “TELL ME ABOUT THE FUCKING GOLF SHOES”

  15. Posted March 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    The Daily Mail story is apparently based on an article in the Bremen edition of the German boulevard newspaper “Bild”. It enjoys the reputation the Daily Mail apparently does in the UK. Roth’s university insisted on a correction. For good measure it was issued in English too. Here it is:

    The news propagated by the German newspaper BILD-Zeitung that the neurobiologist prof. Roth from Bremen University identified a “central lobe” of the human brain as seat of the evil is wrong and due to a deep misunderstanding of statements in an interview. Such a lobe does not exist at all. Professor Roth and his collaborators are presently investigating the effect of early psychotraumatization on the brain as one important factor for the development of later criminal behavior. Different types of criminal behavior can be related to functional disturbances of different centers of the limbic system including the lower frontal lobe (orbitofrontal cortex) of the brain.

  16. nat
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    According to NeuroNames the central lobe can refer to the insula.

    … which is involved in pretty much everything as cortical regions go, so it might as well be where evil comes from too :P

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