Differences in Prefrontal Glucose Metabolism and the Violence of the Serial Killers

In attempting to relate the violence of serial murders with a physiological brain mechanism, researchers in the past did electroencephalogram (EEG) studies. These studies concluded that the physiological brain structure linked with violence was the prefrontal cortex. However, because these findings conflicted with the neuropsychological variables found in other studies, this hypothesis could not be confidently confirmed. With the advancement in diagnostic equipment, there is now a way to measure the direct quantification of glucose metabolism in selected brain areas. This is determined by using positron emission topography (PET).

Five Studies Using Positron Emission Topography Support Prefrontal Abnormalities In Serial Killers:

Study #1: Researchers reported reduced glucose metabolism and blood flow in the frontal and left temporal cortexes of violent criminals.

Study #2 and #3: Sexual offenders were found to have reduced regional cerebral blood flow (RCBF).

Study #4: This study found that within a sample of personality disordered patients, indications of high aggression (using an aggression scale) were correlated with lower glucose metabolism, specifically in the anterior frontal brain regions.

Study #5: A cortical peel analysis of PET scan images of murderers indicated widespread prefrontal dysfunction, particularly when compared to the occipital cortex. The group that represented the abnormal prefrontal activity was controlled for differences in age, gender, schizophrenia, handedness, ethnicity, motivation, and any history of head injury. (They concluded there were no outside factors that contributed to the prefrontal abnormalities.)

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