Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press Release] New evidence on the biological basis of highly impulsive and aggressive behaviors

This raises an interesting question, if those convicted of crimes should not be punished due to their biology, should they just be set free? Or should they be required to undergo therapy/treatments that might not be evidence-based? Or are other alternatives available?

 

From the 10 November 2013 Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience press release as reported by EurkAlert

For want of a receptor: Some behaviors shaped during early development

SAN DIEGO — Physical and chemical changes in the brain during development can potentially play a role in some delinquent and deviant behaviors, according to research released today. Studies looking at the underlying mechanisms that influence our ability to exercise self-control were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Understanding the impact of changes in specific prefrontal regions during brain development could lead to new treatments and earlier interventions for disorders in which impulsivity plays a key factor. The research may have implications for understanding and dealing with aggressive and troublesome behaviors.

Today’s new findings show that:

  • The absence of serotonin receptors during early development leads to highly aggressive and impulsive behaviors in mice. Impulsivity, but not aggression, returns to normal levels by reintroducing the receptors (Katherine Nautiyal, PhD, abstract 754.07, see attached summary).
  • Adolescents react more impulsively to danger than adults or children, and the prefrontal cortex works harder to exert control over impulsive responses to threatening cues (Kristina Caudle, PhD, abstract 852.14, see attached summary).

Other recent findings discussed show that:

  • Weak control of the brain’s prefrontal cortex (which monitors personality, decision-making, and self-restraint) over regions associated with reward and motivation could explain the lack of self-control experienced by anti-social individuals (Joshua Buckholtz, PhD, presentation 194.01, see attached speaker summary).
  • Criminal defendants increasingly use brain science to explain their actions, pointing to brain scans and the scientific literature for evidence that brain impairments affect behavior. This is impacting how the legal system assigns responsibility and punishment for criminal wrongdoing in the United States (Nita Farahany, JD, PhD, presentation 301, see attached speaker summary).

“Our deeper understanding of the origins of delinquent behavior can be a double-edged sword,” said press conference moderator BJ Casey, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, an expert in attention, behavior, and related brain disorders. “While we’re making tremendous gains in neuroscience that should lead to improved treatments, our biological insights also have implications for criminal cases and the judicial process that we need to understand.”

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This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as private and philanthropic organizations. More information about behavior and the brain can be found at BrainFacts.org.

 

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog]New study explores the pathways that lead to jail time for women

From the 6 August 2013 article at Medical News Today

How do pathways to jail vary for females who are victims of specific types of trauma? New research published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, a SAGE journal, pinpoints the types of trauma such as caregiver violence, witnessing violence, and intimate partner violence, that lead to specific types of offending later in life and offers explanations based on real experiences.

Researchers Dana DeHart, Shannon Lynch, Joanne Belknap, and Bonnie Green conducted life-history interviews with 115 female inmates from five U.S. states and found the following patterns:

  • Intimate partner violence increased women’s risks for property crimes, drug offending, and commercial sex work. These relationships often related to intimate involvement with violent men who fluctuated between roles as the women’s co-offenders, drug dealers, and pimps.
  • Witnessing violence increased risks for property crimes, fighting, and use of weapons. These relationships often stemmed from affiliation with criminal networks, and often women’s use of weapons or aggression arose from efforts to protect themselves or others.
  • Experiences of caregiver violence increased risk of running away as a teen. Runaway youth often enact this behavior as a means of escaping intolerable maltreatment at home.

 

Read the entire article here 

 

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brain Research Shows Psychopathic Criminals Do Not Lack Empathy, but Fail to Use It Automatically

From the 24 July 2013 article at Science Daily

Criminal psychopathy can be both repulsive and fascinating, as illustrated by the vast number of books and movies inspired by this topic. Offenders diagnosed with psychopathy pose a significant threat to society, because they are more likely to harm other individuals and to do so again after being released. A brain imaging study in the Netherlands shows individuals with psychopathy have reduced empathy while witnessing the pains of others. When asked to empathize, however, they can activate their empathy. This could explain why psychopathic individuals can be callous and socially cunning at the same time.

Why are psychopathic individuals more likely to hurt others? Individuals with psychopathy characteristically demonstrate reduced empathy with the feelings of others, which may explain why it is easier for them to hurt other people. However, what causes this lack of empathy is poorly understood. Scientific studies on psychopathic subjects are notoriously hard to conduct. “Convicted criminals with a diagnosis of psychopathy are confined to high-security forensic institutions in which state-of-the-art technology to study their brain, like magnetic resonance imaging, is usually unavailable,” explains Professor Christian Keysers, Head of the Social Brain Lab in Amsterdam, and senior author of a study on psychopathy appearing in the journal Brain this week. “Bringing them to scientific research centres, on the other hand, requires the kind of high-security transportation that most judicial systems are unwilling to finance.”

The Dutch judicial system, however, seems to be an exception. They joined forces with academia to promote a better understanding of psychopathy. As a result, criminals with psychopathy were transported to the Social Brain Lab of the University Medical Center in Groningen (The Netherlands). There, the team could use state of the art high-field functional magnetic resonance imaging to peak into the brain of criminals with psychopathy while they view the emotions of others.

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Related Video

  • The Unrepentent (Canadian Broadcasting Company-The Fifth Estate)
     “They are marked by their ability to kill without passion and without remorse. Some are called psychopaths – a term that evokes nightmare images of murderers and monsters. But the label can also apply to men and women who are successful, intelligent, charismatic, charming and amusing – and so all the more dangerous. This week on the fifth estate, Linden MacIntyre looks at what makes a psychopath through the fifth estate’s close encounters with of four of Canada’s most frightening criminals. [From the CBC site…video at this site is only accessible in Canada]

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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