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Sept 11, 1967

Role of Brain Disease in Riots and Urban Violence

JAMA. 1967;201(11):895. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130110121050

To the Editor:—  That poverty, unemployment, slum housing, and inadequate education underlie the nation's urban riots is well known, but the obviousness of these causes may have blinded us to the more subtle role of other possible factors, including brain dysfunction in the rioters who engaged in arson, sniping, and physical assault.The urgent needs of underprivileged urban centers for jobs, education and better housing should not be minimized, but to believe that these factors are solely responsible for the present urban riots is to overlook some of the newer medical evidence about the personal aspects of violent behavior.It is important to realize that only a small number of the millions of slum dwellers have taken part in the riots, and that only a sub-fraction of these rioters have indulged in arson, sniping, and assault. Yet, if slum conditions alone determined and initiated riots, why are the vast majority