Scientists have found out the features of the structure of the brain of criminals

Scientists have found out the features of the structure of the brain of criminals
Scientists have found out the features of the structure of the brain of criminals

The reason for antisocial behavior may be a decrease in certain areas of the brain, according to an international team of scientists. Certain manifestations of it are normal in adolescence, but if a person lies, steals and gets into fights from childhood, his chances of becoming a recidivist criminal increase rapidly.

Antisocial behavior, from absenteeism to criminal offenses, may be due to the nature of the brain, according to a team of researchers led by experts from University College London. If a person leaves home or breaks the law only in adolescence, then it is unlikely that he will continue to do so in the future. But those who demonstrate antisocial behavior from childhood, most likely, will behave in this way in adulthood. The study was published in The Lancet.

Antisocial behavior means not only criminal acts, but also a generally negative attitude towards social norms and the desire to resist them. These include absenteeism at school and at work, pathological deceit, failure to fulfill financial obligations, leaving home, lack of planning for one's life, remorse. People who are prone to antisocial behavior will not experience fear or anxiety, so they are not afraid of the consequences of their actions.

In this study, scientists identified fights, bullying, damage to other people's property, lies, truancy and theft as the main manifestations of antisocial behavior.

The study participants were 672 people from New Zealand, born in 1972-1973. From the age of seven to 26, every two years, parents, guardians and teachers reported on the behavior of the participants. The subjects themselves also reported about it.

By the time the participants in the experiment matured, 80 of them showed persistent antisocial behavior. Another 151 people showed it only in adolescence. The remaining significant episodes of antisocial behavior were not observed.

People who demonstrated antisocial behavior throughout their lives were five times more likely to commit acts for which they later received criminal punishment.

They also had a higher incidence of mental illness. In addition, this group was more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and they had lower IQs on average. The group's antisocial behavior and crimes were more serious than those who showed antisocial tendencies only during their adolescence.

When the participants were 45 years old, the researchers gave them an MRI of the brain and examined the area of the cortex and its thickness in 360 areas.

As it turned out, participants with antisocial behavior had less cortical surface in 282 areas. Also in 11 other areas, the crust was thinner.

Changes, in particular, were observed in the areas associated with the regulation of emotions, motivation and goal setting.


Those who committed crimes as adolescents showed changes in the density of the gray matter of the brain compared to the most law-abiding participants. However, there were no differences in the area of the bark.

“These results are consistent with earlier data and show that there are different types of young criminals. Not all of them should be treated equally,”says study co-author Professor Essie Wieding.

“It could be that these people just chose such a path in life.

But the data shows that this was actually due to certain deficiencies in their brains,”adds Professor Terry Moffitt, another author of the work.


While such people can commit serious crimes, they should be treated with some leniency, she said.

“The results of our research support the idea that the structure of their brains may be the cause of antisocial behavior in people. These traits prevent them from developing social skills, which ultimately leads to poor consequences,”- said lead author of the study, Dr. Christina Karlisi.

She notes that people who commit crimes may need special support throughout their lives.

The causal relationship between the characteristics of the brain has yet to be studied, the authors of the work point out. The revealed changes could be formed both genetically and under the influence of environmental factors and characteristics of upbringing. Smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction could also affect the brain.

Brain scans of the subjects were carried out in adulthood, the researchers add. Observing the changes in its structure from a young age, you can get much more information. In addition, the scientists considered only gray matter, without analyzing changes in other tissues.

Also, the researchers did not attach much importance to head injuries, which, as it has been repeatedly proven, can affect human behavior.

The researchers remind that it is important to timely identify babies with antisocial behavior.

The sooner they and their families receive support from specialists, the higher the chances that it will be possible to correct their behavior and avoid problems in the future.

An antisocial child does not necessarily become a criminal, notes neurophysiology professor Hugh Williams.

“Research confirms the need to help children and young people with self-regulation problems,” he says. School support is offered as one way of such assistance.

According to the researchers, their work has to do with how the justice system treats juvenile criminals. Most of them, having stumbled once, do not show antisocial behavior in the future. Such teenagers have excellent chances to rethink their actions and change for the better. But some adolescents do not draw any conclusions and become repeat offenders. And, if the reason for such a difference is in the characteristics of the brain of representatives of two different groups, then, probably, each of them needs a separate approach.

However, scientists warn that one should not draw conclusions on the basis of brain scans alone and write people with any peculiarities of its structure into potential criminals - there are many factors that persuade a person to commit crimes, and the peculiarities of the structure of the brain are just one of them.

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