Criminal violence and the brain

Open-access science journal PLoS Biology has another fantastic article that investigates what neuroscience tells about about the causes of antisocial behaviour and how damage to the brain can, in rare cases, lead someone to become violent.

The article looks at research on the neuropsychology of violent criminals, as well as ‘forensic neurology’ – the science of understanding how brain injury can remove the normal inhibitions for aggression.

Some striking case studies are covered as well as possible ways of understanding and managing criminality.

Criminality and violence is a difficult area, as personal motivations and influences are complex. The paper notes that:

To be clear, there is at present no reason to believe that all criminal behaviours, or indeed even all violent criminal behaviours, are the result of organically dysfunctional brains. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that some kinds of dysfunction are likely to increase the probability of some kinds of behaviours that society labels as criminal.

The discussion also covers how the legal system might make sense of these new brain discoveries, in light of neuroscience evidence being increasingly used in court cases as a way of determining if someone is telling the truth, and as a way of arguing for reduced responsibility for a criminal act.

Link to PLoS Biology article ‘Law, Responsibility, and the Brain’.

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