--Original published at Bailey PSY 105 Blog
I have always been interested in the topics of serial killers, and what goes behind the motivation of these killers to commit the crimes that they do. The implications of the genetic structure of the brain contributing to someone turning into a murderer is very compelling to me, so that is why I chose the talk Exploring the Mind of a Killer.
In the TED talk, neuroscientist Jim Fallon goes into detail about the mental structure of a serial killer and how genetics, early experiences, brain structure, and critical timing goes in to the making of a killer. In the talk, Fallon goes into depth about the structure of the orbital lobe, as well as the genetic significance of timing when one is examining what creates a serial killer. For example, the combination of early childhood exposure to violence as well as the MAO-A gene, as well as the overexposure to serotonin when your brain is developing, is what Fallon refers to as “a recipe for disaster.” Fallon also gets into the contributions a family tree has to serial killers, and details his own experiences with several of his own relatives (including Lizzy Borden and the Cornells) that committed gruesome murders.
I found the aspect of the family tree most interesting when watching the TED talk, because I had no idea that the concept of being a killer could run in the family. It does make sense after watching it, though, because if what Fallon claims about the MAO-A gene is correct, and if it keeps getting passed down from generation to generation, the gene would continue to have the same effects if the child was exposed to some sort of violent stimuli early on.
I find the presenter very trustworthy; Fallon is a neuroscientist as well as a professor at University of California, and has dedicated over 35 years to studying behavior as a result to brain and genetic structure. Though he has just recently gotten involved in studying killers, I believe that he has enough of a solid background in the subject to be able to apply it to this field. I also think that the consistencies he has found in the genetics and brain scans of more than 70 examples of violent killers are very sturdy proof of his claim.
If I were to do a research study based on the information presented on the talk, I would look more deeply into if there is a way to correct the damaged structure of the orbital region of the brain through sessions of therapy, or prescription medications. I would take previous offenders who displayed this type of behavior and brain structure, as well as people that had not yet committed a violent crime and split them into a control and experimental group. I would then submit the control group to sessions of talk therapy as well as pharmaceuticals. Finally, I would test and compare the way that both groups responded to various stressful and perhaps violence-inducing situations (in a controlled environment) and see if the drugs or therapy had made any difference. I would also preform repeat brain scans to see if the actual structure of the brain had been edited at all since the start of the correction attempts.