Most of the times, studies are revealed that the environment and the parenting styles condition the criminal behavior, in fact it can be diagnosed as antisocial personality disorder. But what really happen inside its brain?

A very interesting investigation puts in evidence, that the brains of criminals are different from those of the rest of population. In fact scientists examined 21 people with this antisocial personality disorder. Those with the disorder “typically have no regard for right and wrong. They may often violate the law and the rights of others”.

Brain scans of the antisocial people, compared with a control group of individuals without any mental disorders, showed on average an 18% reduction in the volume of the brain’s middle frontal gyrus, and a 9% reduction in the volume of the orbital frontal gyrus, two sections in the brain’s frontal lobe. MOSKOWITZ, C. (2011) Criminal Minds Are Different From Yours, Brain Scans Reveal.Livescience. [Online] Availble from: http://www.livescience.com/13083-criminals-brain-neuroscience-ethics.html#sthash.MnuSEqf6.dpuf [Accesed: 3th May 2016]

Another brain study, compared 27 psychopaths ( people with severe antisocial personality disorder ) to 32 non-psychopaths. In the psychopaths, the researchers observed deformations in another part of the brain called the amygdala, with the psychopaths showing a thinning of the outer layer of that region called the cortex and, on average, an 18% volume reduction in this part of brain.

“The amygdala is the seat of emotion. Psychopaths lack emotion. They lack empathy, remorse, guilt” (Raine, 2009).

But, people who end up being convicted for crimes often show behavioral differences compared with the rest of the population. One long-term study that Raine (2010), participated in followed 1,795 children born in two towns from ages 3 to 23. The study measured many aspects of these individuals’ growth and development, and found that 137 became criminal offenders.

One test on the participants at age 3 measured their response to fear (fear conditioning) by associating a stimulus, such as a tone, with a punishment like an electric shock, and then measuring people’s involuntary physical responses through the skin upon hearing the tone.

In this case, the researchers found a distinct lack of fear conditioning in the 3 year olds who would later become criminals.

Based on these findings, it is possible to say that a criminal is born with a few conditions inside its brain. Later both psychological and social development will enhance its personality.

Ruth Talavera Flores


Research Associate & IRIANS’s Representative for

the Iberian Peninsula and Mexico

IRIANS – The Neuroscience Institute


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