Brain Abnormalities in Antisocial Individuals: Implications for the Law

Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061, USA.
Behavioral Sciences & the Law (Impact Factor: 0.96). 01/2008; 26(1):65-83. DOI: 10.1002/bsl.788
Source: PubMed


With the increasing popularity in the use of brain imaging on antisocial individuals, an increasing number of brain imaging studies have revealed structural and functional impairments in antisocial, psychopathic, and violent individuals. This review summarizes key findings from brain imaging studies on antisocial/aggressive behavior. Key regions commonly found to be impaired in antisocial populations include the prefrontal cortex (particularly orbitofrontal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), superior temporal gyrus, amygdala-hippocampal complex, and anterior cingulate cortex. Key functions of these regions are reviewed to provide a better understanding on how deficits in these regions may predispose to antisocial behavior. Objections to the use of imaging findings in a legal context are outlined, and alternative perspectives raised. It is argued that brain dysfunction is a risk factor for antisocial behavior and that it is likely that imaging will play an increasing (albeit limited) role in legal decision-making.

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Available from: Andrea L Glenn, Jun 11, 2015
    • "However, the criminal justice system is currently far off from being able to provide those types of services to youth offenders. Although the broad consensus is that it may be too early to effectively and appropriately use brain imaging evidence in criminal trials to address the issue of legal responsibility as the law currently stands, it may one day have the potential to make useful contributions to legal decision-making in cases involving adult psychopaths (Fabian, 2010; Yang et al., 2008). However, its use in criminal trials involving juvenile psychopathic offenders brings in issues that may not be relevant to trials involving adult psychopaths. "
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    ABSTRACT: AbstractPurpose While there has been an exponential increase in brain imaging research on psychopathy in the past two decades, knowledge on the brain basis to child and adolescent psychopathic-like behavior is relatively new. This adult and child research has potential future implications for the development of new interventions, prediction of future offending, and punishment. Method This review examines both adult and child literatures on the neural basis of psychopathy, together with implications for the criminal justice system. Results The adult imaging literature provides growing evidence for amygdala impairments in psychopaths, and more variable evidence for prefrontal deficits. The emerging adolescent imaging literature with notable exceptions broadly parallels these adult findings and may help explain the development of fearlessness, disinhibition, and lack of empathy. Conclusion This knowledge places policy makers at a crossroads. Should new biological interventions be developed to remediate these brain abnormalities? Would imaging be used in the future to predict offending? Could imaging findings help excuse psychopathic behavior or alternatively argue for longer sentences for public protection? This review attempts to address these issues at the child and adult levels and provides directions for future research that include the incorporation of biological measures into treatment programs.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Journal of Criminal Justice
    • "While some consistent information related to the link between this gene and behavior is available, much still remains to be understood. Thus, these judgments may be premature, raise some alarms and highlight the current problematic issue of the use of neuroimaging and genetic profiles as evidence in courts (Jones, 2006; Jones, Buckholtz, Schall, & Marois, 2009; Morse, 2011a, 2011b; Nadelhoffer and Sinnott-Armstrong, 2012; The Royal Society, 2011; Yang et al., 2008; Farah et al. 2009). One of the key concerns is that the same genetic information is used to mitigate criminal responsibility and also to elevate perceived predetermined dangerousness and the resulting punishment. "
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    ABSTRACT: The genetics of the accused is trying to break into the courts. To date several candidate genes have been put forward and their links to antisocial behavior have been examined and documented with some consistency. In this paper, we focus on the so called "warrior gene", or the low-activity allele of the MAOA gene, which has been most consistently related to human behavior and specifically to violence and antisocial behavior. In preparing this paper we had two objectives. First, to summarize and analyze the current scientific evidence, in order to gain an in depth understanding of the state of the issue and determine whether a dominant line of generally accepted scientific knowledge in this field can be asserted. Second, to derive conclusions and put forward recommendations related to the use of genetic information, specifically the presence of the low-activity genotype of the MAOA gene, in modulation of criminal responsibility in European and US courts. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
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    • "Relevant work from forensic psychology, biological psychiatry, and genetics is incorporated with the goal of integrating converging findings across disciplines so that each area can inform the other. While several authors have written recent reviews on similar topics (e.g., the neurobiology of psychopathy , the neurobiology of aggression in children: Blair, Peschardt, Budhani, & Pine, 2006a, 2006b; Glenn & Raine, 2008; Kiehl, 2006; Sterzer & Stadler, 2009; Yang & Raine, 2008), most of these reviews have been written more narrowly with the primary goal of describing an author's theory of neural mechanisms involved in AB, with less emphasis on a critical examination of the reviewed studies' methods and results. In contrast, the goals of the current review are as follows: (1) to provide a broad and in-depth literature review of the functional neuroimaging literature as it relates to youth AB with the goal of evaluating how this literature has informed our understanding of youth AB at the neural and behavioral level; (2) to evaluate the current neuroimaging studies of youth AB from a developmental perspective with an eye towards integrating research from neuroscience and concepts from developmental psychopathology, as little work has examined how behavioral and neuroimaging studies inform each other and how the integration of these studies may highlight areas for future research; (3) to examine strengths and weaknesses of neuroimaging and behavioral studies of youth AB to suggest how future studies can develop a more informed and integrated understanding of youth AB; and (4) to examine how other relevant literatures (i.e., structural MRI of youth AB, neuroimaging in psychopathy, neurotransmitter and genetics approaches, findings from normative adolescents) can inform current and future functional neuroimaging studies of youth AB. "
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    ABSTRACT: Youth antisocial behavior (AB) is an important public health concern impacting perpetrators, victims, and society. Functional neuroimaging is becoming a more common and useful modality for understanding neural correlates of youth AB. Although there has been a recent increase in neuroimaging studies of youth AB and corresponding theoretical articles on the neurobiology of AB, there has been little work critically examining the strengths and weaknesses of individual studies and using this knowledge to inform the design of future studies. Additionally, research on neuroimaging and youth AB has not been integrated within the broader framework of developmental psychopathology. Thus, this paper provides an in-depth review of the youth AB functional neuroimaging literature with the following goals: 1. to evaluate how this literature has informed our understanding of youth AB, 2. to evaluate current neuroimaging studies of youth AB from a developmental psychopathology perspective with a focus on integrating research from neuroscience and developmental psychopathology, as well as placing this research in the context of other related areas (e.g., psychopathy, molecular genetics), and 3. to examine strengths and weaknesses of neuroimaging and behavioral studies of youth AB to suggest how future studies can develop a more informed and integrated understanding of youth AB.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · Developmental Review
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