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August 1993

Brain Damage and Violence

Arch Neurol. 1993;50(8):871. doi:10.1001/archneur.1993.00540080074019

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The capacity for violence may be innate, but its expression is not. Pincus stresses the role of biological factors in determining aggressive behavior. He argues convincingly that cognitive impairment, lapses of awareness in memory, and psychotic symptomatology occur more commonly among violent than nonviolent criminals when compared with the population at large. Restak concurs, but points out that most crimes are committed by individuals with no evidence of brain damage. Moreover, Pincus acknowledges that the majority of brain-damaged and paranoid individuals are not violent.

On the other hand, both Pincus and Restak agree that brain damage can decrease the threshold for impulsive behavior and for violence, providing mitigating considerations for some crimes.

Brain damage may unleash violence, but it does not explain it. Most criminals are neurologically normal.

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