Brain-imaging research on violence troubles us by challenging the way we think about crime. It questions our treatment of murderers in the way that, looking back 200 years, we question the shackling of the mentally ill. The history of civilization suggests that, at least over the long term, society has tended to become more humane. Two hundred years from now will we have reconceptualized recidivistic, serious criminal behavior as a clinical disorder with roots in early social, biological, and genetic forces beyond the individual’s control? Will we look back aghast at the execution of seriously violent offenders? Will we view execution of prisoners as we now view the burning of witches?
Dr. Adrian Raine, who did the first neuroimaging study of killers in 1999. A then and now look: Johanna Goldberg for the Dana Foundation Blog :
If biology is to blame for behavior, how should we punish criminal acts? Where do personal responsibility and morality fit into the equation? And if science gets to the point of being able to predict who will become a criminal, what comes next? VIA
Brain scan (PET) of a normal control (left) and a murderer (right), illustrating the lack of activation in the prefrontal cortex in the murderer. Via