Whether you binge watch “Dexter” on Netflix, have ever seen “The Silence of the Lambs” or just occasionally stop scrolling through your television channels to watch the ending of a “Dateline” episode, we have all heard at least one horrific story about a psychotic serial killer.
But other than making for great film and television characters, serial killers have intrigued psychologists for decades because of their altered psychological state. Numerous studies have been done to uncover the science behind these horrifically genius criminals, but what if we could catch serial killers before they committed any crimes?
Well, according to British criminologist Adrian Raine, identifying a psychopath before they become dangerous is not only possible, but fairly accurately so. After scanning the brains of over 40 violent criminals, from serial killers to rapists, Raine claims that there is a “fault” in a person’s brain that makes them prone to aggression. More importantly, it can be detected very early on in a person’s life.
“The seeds of sin are sewn early,” said Raine during an interview with Mirror.
This defect, which is found in the prefrontal area of the brain, can be found in children of negligent or abusive mothers, or those who drank or smoked during their pregnancy. This area of the brain controls complex cognitive, emotional and behavioral functions such as impulse control and aggression.
The relation of this brain “fault” along with other factors, such as a lower resting heart rates, to violent activity has made it easier for scientists to create a sort of genetic profile for serial killers and rapists. And the question has now become whether or not this profile is reliable enough to apply in real scenarios.
For example, let’s say that a child, Bobby, falls off a swing during recess and falls on his head. As part of standard hospital procedure Bobby gets a brain scan to ensure that he didn’t suffer a concussion, but while examining the x-ray doctors find an abnormality in his pre-frontal lobe.
Now what? Do the doctors approach the parents and tell them that their child has a very high possibility of becoming a violent criminal? Are there certain measures that must be taken to prevent the symptoms of this “fault” from surfacing?
Like any other scientific hypothesis, Raine’s research poses many questions regarding the effects that these findings can have on society once they are implemented. If this research is theorized, not only would it open immense possibilities of crime prevention, but it would also risk what could be deadly misdiagnoses.
Someone who is diagnosed with this brain defect is likely to exhibit its symptoms even if the brain scan in not completely accurate. This kind of reverse placebo effect could lead to the unintentional creation of serial killers, instead of its intended prevention.
Raine remains hopeful, going as far as saying that if scientists are able to find a way to control or change these brain abnormalities, “we could in effect end crime.”
Although Raine’s idealism seems quite far-fetched, his research has in fact made a leap towards crime and maybe even mental illness prevention, and I don’t know about you, but having Dexter Morgan and his fellow fictional characters be the only active serial killers sounds pretty good to me.