Neuroscience of Violence

Video

Summary

From 10:33 – 20:50 of the following PBS report, NOVA discusses the neuroscience behind violence using the killer at Sandy Hook, Adam Lanza as an example. A group of specialists from universities such as Harvard and Columbia as well as a Neuroscientist address how while most people would pin point people with mental disabilities, and would like to diagnose killers with labels to explain their actions, it’s an unfair assumption. For example, Lanza was diagnosed with Aspergers but this syndrome cannot be the cause of his violent rampage. Charles Whitman, responsible for the University of Texas shooting and the death of his mother and wife, is also referenced in the case of describing the amygdala normality found when requested an autopsy in a note. Studies have been made about the difference in emotional regulation from ‘average’ people to people who have committed crimes. Scientists found that the wiring/circuit from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala was broken and therefore the brain could not receive signals to calm down in situations the person might feel threatened causing them to be violent. Although scientists, through statistics have found that people who share the characteristics of youth, male, subsidence abuse, paranoia, anger and weapon accessibility are at greater risk of committing violent acts. Just because someone might fit into that category, doesn’t mean they would actually commit the act so thats why in the future scientists are starting to look into genes and analyze DNA. In the meantime, until scientists can find out exactly why killers do what they do, improving mental health systems and removing weapon accessibility will make an impact until science can take over.

Think about it!

Could Adam Lanza be labeled as a killer, murderer, criminal, even though it may not have been his fault?

If you possessed the same gene or abnormality as a killer, and scientists had a cure, but you had never committed an act of violence, would you get ‘fixed’?

If everyone was tested to see if they possessed the gene, or abnormality that killers shared, would they be discriminated even before they had ever, or would ever commit a crime?

*How do we know when scientist have gone too far in searching for answers? 

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