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Discovery of the Areas of the Brain involved in Aggression

Hypothalamus & Amygdala

Two parts of the limbic system, the amygdala and the hypothalamus has been found to have a particular strong connection to aggression.
Animal studies
Have show that electrical stimulation of different parts of the amygdala can either cause or reduce aggression. Post mortem evidence Charles Whitman, a sniper who killed 14 innocent people and wounded 31
others, left a note that pleaded for his brain to be examined after death for possible dysfunction. At post-mortem, he was found to have a temporal lobe tumour, pressing on his amygdala. Chris Benoit, a wrestler who murdered his wife and son. After his death his
brain was examined and he was found to have brain damage:

Methods of Investigating the Brain

Brain Research Centre at UCLA introduction to EEG equipment, PET scans and MRI machines This clip aims to provide an understanding of the methodology and power of current methods in neuroscience v=RREoQJUHSYE

Raine et al (1997) Brain abnormalities in murderers

Brain abnormalities in murderers indicated by positron emission tomography (PET Scans) Journal of Biological Psychiatry, Volume 42, pages 495-508

Images from Pet Scans

Shows hot spots for cognitive activities

Raine et al (1997) Introduction

Is there a biological basis for criminality? Used PET scans Put radioactive labels on:
blood/blood sugars dopamine (neuro-transmitter)

Other studies have used MRI and fMRI

Raine et al (1997) Background

Background to study
41 people: 39M 2F average age 34.3 Charged with murder, pleading not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) All referred for PET scans for legal reasons

All 41 had some recognisable medical/psychological condition

Schizophrenia 6 (15%) Head injury/organic brain damage 23 (56%) Drug abuse 3 (7.5%) Affective disorder 2 (5%) Epilepsy 2 (5%) Hyperactivity or Learning disorder 3 (7.5%) Personality disorder 2 (5%)

1 for each participant, matched for age / sex All controls screened for mental/physical health Schizophrenics were matched with non-murderer schizophrenics

Raine et al (1997) PET Process

Injection with glucose tracer 32 minutes on target recognition task NGRI/controls compared in 14 Left & Right brain areas
6 cortical: including prefrontal; parietal; temporal; occipital

8 sub cortical: including the corpus callosum; amygdala; hippocampus

Raine et al (1997) Results

How they calculated their results
Compared results for participants and controls Used Parametric statistics tests Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)

Compared a range of factors

Cortical lobes of cerebral cortex compared to controls

Parietal & Pre-fontal lobes: less activity =? Occipital lobes: more activity =? Temporal lobes : same =?

Sub cortical areas compared to controls

Corpus callosum: Less activity Between hemispheres: Imbalance Amygdala; hippocampus: less activity L / more R Thalamus: more activity R / same L Handedness: no difference Ethnicity: no difference

Raine et al (1997) Discussion

Authors suggest
Supports previous research findings: Amygdala differences (linked to emotions; lack of fear) Corpus Callosum differences linked to lack of long term perspective?

However, the results

Do not show violence is only biological in origin Do not show NGRIs are not responsible for their own actions Do not say anything about causes of differences Cannot be generalised from NGRIs to other violent offenders Cannot be generalised to other types of crime

Other evaluation issues

Imaging methods still being developed Pre-scan task no bearing on violent behaviour Cause effect of brain differences unclear

Problems using PET Scanning

Colourisation = very complex errors Practiced task = brain activity declines in that area 'hottest spots' = only for newest tasks? "it seems we should not let the quality of evidence get in the way of a good story" Banyard and Grayson 2000

PET Scanning & Practice

PET scan of a subject whilst practicing a new language skill

A scan of the same subject demonstrating this skill after it had become familiar

Raine et al (1997) Summary

Practical Applications?
Diagnosis of criminality?
No clear evidence to support this

Treatment of criminality?
No clear evidence to support this

In Summary
Data unclear Differences small Cause-effect unknown Meaning of differences unknown

More recent research

Horizon Program 2011 with Dr Jim Fallon: v=43Mv5Hw4Geg&list=PLE8FD2ACEA5A40AB8&index=64&fea ture=plpp_video

Article Wall Street Journal Nov, 2009:

Fallon SB125745788725531839.html#printMode

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