Prefrontal Cortex Damage Can Lead To Violent Behavior

Early damage to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, either through oxygen deprivation at birth or from brain injury as a young child, hinders the social and moral development of the child. Adults who receive trauma to their brain, on the other hand, are usually aware of the proper social and moral conduct, but are not capable of applying such correct behavior.

Brain injury involves two different sets of events.   Primary brain injuries include fractures, bruises, blood clots, lacerations of brain tissue or blood vessels. A secondary cycle of biochemical events is also set in motion by the trauma, and is the primary   contributor to long-term damage associated with brain injury.

In the womb, the prefrontal cortex is the slowest to develop. After birth it is the last to form the deep fissures that give the outer layer of the human brain its characteristic cauliflower-like appearance. The brain cells in the prefrontal cortex form more slowly than any other area of the brain. This is also the area that controls most of our major higher functions, and bestows us with “executive functions” such as working memory and multi-tasking.

According to Raymond Dolan of Institute of Neurology in London, many patients with this type of brain damage to the prefrontal cortex have problems with violence and resembled “psychopathic individuals, who are characterized by high levels of aggression and antisocial behavior performed without guilt or empathy for their victims.” Otherwise these people are normal in every way, including mental ability. Their brains are just not capable of acquiring social and moral knowledge even at a normal level.

Since the 1980s, scientists have been able to connect damage to the prefrontal cortex with psychopathic behavior and the inability to make morally and socially acceptable decisions. Unfortunately, this area of the brain is susceptible to injury.

At the November 1999 annual meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, researchers presented findings and statistics compiled from the University of Sweden that we startling.   Asa Bergvall presented findings on their study of violent offenders, explaining that the prefrontal cortex area of the brain is precisely the “area of the brain that is impaired in murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals who repeatedly re-offend.”

“The violent offenders are like the controls in every task but one, which taps prefrontal function,” says Bergvall. “In that, it was as if they were retarded. They had an impaired ability to shift their attention in order to view the world in a different way — a function linked to the lateral prefrontal cortex. Other, higher order executive functions of their prefrontal cortex appeared to be unimpaired.”

Psychopathologist and researcherAdrian Raine, from the University of Southern California, documented prefrontal damage in people with Antisocial Personality Disorder as characterized by “irresponsibility and deceitfulness, lack of emotional depth and remorse.” He reported, “The antisocial men actually had 11-14% less brain tissue volume in their prefrontal cortexes, compared to normal males — a deficit of about two teaspoons’ worth.”

My name is RonWhite, and I am a two-time USA Memory Champion, memory training expert, and memory keynote speaker. I found this information interesting and would like to learn more about it.

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