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Surprising Science

Can Science Stop Political Violence by Studying the Brain?

Scientists have found neurological and biological markers of violence which they hope can be assuaged through medicine. But everyone agrees that early intervention is the best strategy. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists believe a neurological or biological motivation may lay behind unforeseen acts of violence, such as the recent attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and that such tragedies may be prevented through further medical study. By using MRI machines to watch how the brain reacts to violence, for example, neurologist Rene Weber has found that violent video games activate the same neural pathways as does real violence. “What they’re after now is looking at whether these same responses…like Quetiapine, an anti-psychotic drug that lowers aggressive tendencies.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Initially based on studies of aggressive rodents, some researchers have found that certain humans have a ‘warrior gene’—thought toproduce an enzyme of the same name that regulates various neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotoninwhich in turn predisposes those with the gene to engage in violent acts. (The presence of the warrior gene, however, seems counter intuitive, with more Buddhist monks possessing it than ultimate fighters.) But more important that medical solutions proposed late in life, early intervention is considered essential to stemming harmful behavior. 

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