October 1971

Violence and the Brain.

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurosurgery, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, Calif


By Vernon H Mark, MD, and Frank R Ervin, MD. Price, $6.95. Pp 184, with 139 illustrations. Harper & Row Publishers Inc, New York, 1970.

Arch Surg. 1971;103(4):520. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1971.01350100118027

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Two members of the Harvard Medical School staff have teamed together to write a most provocative and interesting book. This is a short monograph compiling their recent work on the organ of behavior, the brain. The central theme in the book is that the limbic system, particularly the amygdala, uncus, hippocampus, and cingulum, forms the primitive "fight or flight" center of the brain. Modifying the species' tendency for basic destructive tendencies is the control exerted by the neocortex. When this stimulus-control system becomes unbalanced, violent acts or rage and destruction are likely to ensue.

Supporting this thesis are the authors' facts that 50% of prisoners in a current study had abnormal electroencephalograms, that amygdaloid lesions that are stimulatory have been responsible for violent acts in many patients, that even the ferocious wolverine can be calmed by experimental lesions made in the amygdala, and that sensational crimes of violence have often

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