When reading or hearing stories about the atrocities we humans can commit against one another, it's easy to wonder what makes people do the things they do. Can "evil" behavior--such as murder, child abuse, and rape--be predicted by a particular spot in the brain?
Some researchers believe it can, and are looking at evidence collected in brain scans of criminals to prove it. Dr. Gerhard Roth, a neurologist, says that his study of the brains of people who have committed heinous crimes have all shown a similar dark spot in the same area; his belief is that different behavior dictates that the brain must be different, as well, not unlike those who suffer from learning disorders.
"When you look at the brain scans of hardened criminals, there are almost always severe shortcomings in the lower forehead part of the brain," Roth said. "There are cases where someone becomes criminal as a result of a tumor or an injury in that area, and after an operation to remove the tumor, that person was completely normal again. When I will look at young people, and I see there are developmental disorders in the lower forehead brain, I can say that there is a felon in the making with 66 percent probability."
In every brain scan he did on criminals during his studies for the German government, Roth says the dark spot showed up.
"We showed these people short films and measured their brain waves,' he said. "Whenever there were brutal and squalid scenes the subjects showed no emotions. In the areas of the brain where we create compassion and sorrow, nothing happened."
But Roth says that psychopathic behavior is not entirely dependent on that "evil spot"; some people may be genetically predisposed to it, and some are raised in environments which exacerbate the problem. He also says that these behaviors often start in childhood and are not difficult to detect.
"It is the task of society to offer widespread support to the children and their parents before they become criminals," he said.