Criminal Minds


| 7 Comments

What could possibly drive someone to murder another human being... what if I told you it was out of his or her control? Would you believe me?

brain.jpg

In recent years, more and more judges are referring to neurological evidence while in court. Scientists have discovered through brain scans that some people's brains are more prone to think in a criminal manner than others. In most situations this is just a "sliver" of evidence used in the big picture of the case. It has been helpful in using and reasoning lighter sentencing in criminal cases. The explanation and science behind this type of evidence is still being studied, but it became known after a compelling case in 2002.

 

      In 2002, a 40-year-old Virginia teacher was caught viewing child pornography and making advances on his stepdaughter. He was convicted of child molestation, but the night before he went to jail, he went to the doctor with a crippling headache and confessed he might commit rape. Doctors found something they didn't expect: A brain tumor.

The cancerous tumor was putting pressure on his orbifrontal cortex, which controls impulse and judgment. The tumor was removed, and the man no longer exhibited pedophilic tendencies. The case was described at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association. Said one of his doctors: "He wasn't faking."


 

Ever since Andrew showed us the clip of Jenny McCarthy talking about vaccines and autism, I have started to realize how the media twists and turns our views on scientific evidence. If the article I found would have taken out this story of the man with the brain tumor, we would simply believe brain scans provide a little bit of evidence in criminal cases, but not enough to deem someone as guilty or innocent. If you continue reading the article, you will find that there are "thousands of people with broken looking brains, who act rational." So why are these brain scans becoming so popular when their reliability is still unknown? Because of stories like the one above.

We all know from this class that the 2002 child pornography case could simply be due to chance, not everyone with a brain tumor thinks like a pedophile. Even if these brain scans do provide sufficient evidence, would it be ethical to scan brains before crimes are committed? Or maybe it's reverse causation. Only after one commits a horrific crime does one's brain change or tumors form.

Do you think this could lead to legitimate evidence? Or is this just another powerful anecdote winning over the readers?

7 Comments

This is very anecdotal and I don't think it is anything more than that. For this to be plausible there would have to be big studies done to see if there was some sort of strong causal relationship but that would be really difficult because it would involve finding a bunch of people who admit to be on the verge of doing some sort of crime and who would do that? It seems rather silly to me that these brain scans be used in trials and allow the criminals to be given lesser punishments.

I do think it's highly anecdotal in this case.Besides the briefing in ANA's meeting,it doesn't stand for too much implication for the brain scan's future.To the present,brain images are still most prevalently used for diagnoses of tumors,activity detection and polygraph.The supposition that brain scans could be done before the commitment of crimes,I guess it's quite a laughable statement.As Emma said,even a numskull would not stand forth to provide clinical evidences for his own wrongdoings.He ends up going to jail all the same,even after finding a huge bulb of tumor on his head,unless medical authority exculpates malefactors who have a cancerous mutation in CNS system.But making such a big step toward the recognition of underserved punishment requires the investment of ethical screening and extensive simulative researches,and so forth.

this is a very interesting article concerning ethics and biology. but, It seems odd that someone would have the brain functionality to kill or commit "violent" acts.But, on the other hand, this seems logical because from an evolutionary and anthropological perspective, humans need to survive and had to kill in order to survive for the most part millions of years ago. the common genetic ancestry could be passed down to that individual maybe? I am not too sure if this could be a possibility but I was just trying to develop the topic. nevertheless, I like this blogpost

While this analysis of why people commit crimes is highly compelling, I think a lot of it is anecdotal and therefore, has no place being used as courtroom evidence.While we do know that issues such as brain tumors can cause irrational behavior, I strongly believe that a lot of the reason as to why people commit crimes, especially extremely heinous ones, is because of psychological issues (a lot probably from their past) rather than biological issues such as abnormalities in brain activity that shows up on a scan. Unfortunately, psychological issues are much harder to concretely measure than biological issues, so knowing exactly why some people commit crimes with no regrets while others couldn't even imagine doing such a thing is very hard to directly pinpoint.

As everyone else has mentioned, I too find this very anecdotal. However, it isn't the only story of its kind. As soon as I read this blog post, I was immediately reminded of the story of Charles Whitman, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Whitman) the former marine who killed 13 and an unborn child and injured 32 others on a shooting rampage. Prior to this shooting rampage at the University of Texas, where he was a student, Whitman also murdered his mother and wife. When they finally took the autopsy of his body though, the "doctors discovered a small tumor in his brain" according to this article: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/mass/whitman/aftermath_7.html. It is interesting that they are so many different ways that a tumor on the brain could potentially alter one's thoughts. It is especially interesting that these tumors seem to be related to criminal behavior. Has anyone heard of brain tumors leading to positive actions? This would be an interesting blog topic.

I also think this is very anecdotal, but in high school we did a unit on how the brains of serial killers were in fact different then the normal brain. An article in the Vancouver Sun, published in June, it states that "the prisoners with psychopathic traits had significantly smaller amounts of grey matter in regions associated with processing empathy, moral reasoning and "self-conscious" emotions, such as guilt and embarrassment." This is pretty much what you are showing in the picture you put on your blog. I thought your suggestion of this being reverse causation was very interesting. I never thought of it this way, but it makes a lot of sense that the brains of people who committed horrific crimes would be changed after the fact. How would this ever be proven though? It would be extremely difficult and probably unethical to pick out people from a crowd that you think would be responsible for a murder later on in their life. Has medical science made it possible to determine exactly when a change has occurred in our brains? For instance, can doctors determine how long ago a tumor was formed? If this technology is possible, I think that it would be possible to determine if the smaller amounts of grey matter formed before or after the crime was committed.

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/mind+psychopath+Scientists+explore+brain+abnormalities/6754408/story.html

Quinn, I'm glad you commented on my point about reverse causation, I wanted to explain that more in depth. Not only would it be difficult to pinpoint people to follow and see if they commit crimes, how could scientists possibly condone a study of this sort? To stand by and wait for horrific crimes to happen and when they do, simply wait until the deed is done to perform brain scans on the criminal. Like you said, it seems logical that the brain could change after the crime, but how could this ever be proven? Animal testing isn't an option, what characteristics make an animal a criminal? Needless to say, it will be a while until we can understand the criminal mind.

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