Is the Brain Hardwired for Criminal Behavior?

Neuroscience is still one of biology's newest fields and the extent to which human behavior can be explained exclusively in terms of blood flow to specific regions of the brain remains highly in doubt. 

What's the Latest Development?


The rise of neuroscience, and specifically the use of brain scans, as an explanation for human behavior has given us more insight into why some people commit crimes. Experts in the case against Donta Page, who robbed, raped, and killed a young woman in Denver in 1999, testified that scans of Page's brain "revealed he had a distinct lack of activation in the ventral prefrontal cortex: the region that helps regulate our emotions and control our impulses." Page's incredible behavior was deemed to be the result of his biological dispositions, including a family history of mental illness, as well as unfortunate environmental conditions, such as growing up in a violent household.

What's the Big Idea?

Neuroscience is still one of biology's newest fields and the extent to which human behavior can be explained exclusively in terms of blood flow to specific regions of the brain remains highly in doubt. Psychiatrist Sally Satel warns that images of the brain are misleading because they give the impression of a static organ. In reality, she says, the brain is always firing and neural activity is highly distributed among different regions. Satel also points out that locating correlations between brain chemistry and behavior, such as violence, does not imply we can reduce explanations of human behavior to firing neurons.

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