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Is There A Criminal Brain? And Can It Be Modified?

A 1920s image from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Diseases attempts to associate brain types with criminal behavior. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries via Wikimedia Commons)
A 1920s image from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Diseases attempts to associate brain types with criminal behavior. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries via Wikimedia Commons)

The idea originated in the 1870s – that murders and violent criminals were born that way. In fact, an Italian scientist was fairly certain that you could recognize criminals like thieves and murders by the shape of their ears and noses. Those theories didn’t pan out, and ultimately his research was discredited.

But by the 1980s, when MRI machines allowed scientists to begin imaging the brain, the idea that brain differences might lead to behavior variations once again caught the attention of scientists, leading to some very interesting findings – first about how brain differences affect behavior, and now, to how we might be able to prevent some of the most troubling outcomes.

Dr. Adrian Raine is a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology and Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he’s been at the forefront of this research. His newest study, on preventing violence by increasing the intake of certain nutritional supplements, will appear in the May issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. He joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss his new research and its implications.

Guest

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