--Original published at HuntersCollegeBlog
For this first impression post, I decided to pick the TED talk entitled “Exploring the Mind of a Serial Killer.” I’ve always been fascinated by the human brain, especially serial killers’, because they have different brain aspects that non serial killers do not. It’s fascinating to me that because of these different brain aspects, it can motivate them to do heinous crimes, such as murder.
In this TED talk, the speaker, Jim Fallon, a neuroscientist, and a professor at the University of California, talked about how he recently became fascinated with the brains of serial killers. He begins by talking about the interaction of genes, and epigenetic affects. He said that how you end up as a serial killer depends on when damage to the orbital cortex or the anterior part of temporal lobe occurs (these two parts of the brain were damaged on the serial killer’s brains he examined, there are other parts of the brain that can be damaged). The major violence gene is called the MAOA gene. It is a sex-linked genes and is only on the X-chromosome, so one can only get it from their mother. The gene has to do with too much serotonin during development. When one has that gene in utero, the brain becomes insensitive to the serotonin. In order to express the gene in a violent way, the person has to be exposed to some sort of traumatic violence. Having exposure to that violence, and having that gene is a cause for disaster. Jim Fallon also talked about how his cousin was Lizzy Borden, and the first murder of a mother by a son was his great (x5) grandfather.
From this TED talk, I found it most interesting and ironic that Jim Fallon wasn’t aware of the violent behavior in his family, but was studying the brains of serial killers. I also found it fascinating that damage to parts of the brain, and having the gene, as well as violent exposure can be cause to becoming a serial killer.
I believe Jim Fallon is very knowledgable in this course of study, because he’s been doing neurological work for over 35 years, and studying behavior. He is also a professor, and a neurologist, so he is very well educated in the field of neurology.
For my research idea, I would want to figure out who is prone to having the MAOA gene, and how you can determine before birth if someone has it. In order to conduct this research, I would reach out to different neurologist, and ask them how you can determine what genes you have, and how the MAOA gene is first discovered, I would ask if there was any way to tell before birth if the baby has the gene. I would also ask if predominately men have the gene, since Fallon said that it is an X-chromosome gene, which is given by the mother, which is why mostly men are serial killers.