The Brain and Violence: An Unhealthy Combination

Satisfactory Essays
The Brain and Violence: An Unhealthy Combination

"Jack was walking down the street enjoying a snack he had just bought at a convenience store. Feeling good, he smiled at the stranger coming toward him while continuing to eat. The stranger suddenly pulled out a knife and began stabbing Jack. Bystanders pulled the knife away, but too late."

"After the killing, the attacker said that he was deeply sorry. He had sensed a strange aura, then experienced a flashback of having been bitten and of having a hernia operation under local anesthesia. That was followed by hallucinations about Jack cutting off his flesh, testicles, and heart to eat them" (6).

Everyday on the news one hears stories of crimes and murders such as the one above. Murders are committed every day; stores are robbed every hour; crimes are committed constantly. The truth is that violence has sadly become a common and prevalent occurrence in society today. In essence, one must ask himself whether or not these violent tendencies have any biological relation whatsoever. Is violence caused by disruptions or damage to the brain? Is there a genetic correlation? Or is violence brought about by something else, such as economic difficulties or social or cultural differences? And one must ask himself an even broader question-whether a cause for violence even exists.

In 1848, a railroad worker, Phineas Gage, was working when an explosion caused an iron rod to impale his skull, damaging the front part of his brain. Although Gage miraculously survived, his behavior severely changed in that the intelligent and respectful man everyone knew suddenly because fitful, impulsive, and rude (2).

This case is one of the first indications that violence may be related to some kind of damage or abnormality in the brain. Researchers have found correlations between violent and aggressive tendencies to damage or abnormalities to a specific part of the brain. Gage's accident probably resulted in damage to the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the brain's foremost outer position, located behind the eyes. This area of the brain is especially important because of it's importance in the orchestration of emotion, arousal, and attention. The prefrontal cortex seems to be the part of the brain that enables people to restrain themselves from acting on all of their impulses and is extremely vital for a child's ability to learn to feel remorse, conscience, and social sensitivity (5).

However, although the function of the prefrontal cortex is known, why, or how, would prefrontal deficits cause violent tendencies or a more aggressive character?
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