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Murderous Minds: Exploring the Criminal Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evil Hardcover – March 6, 2014
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"In this fascinating page-turner, neurobiologist Haycock tries to uncover the correlation between brain abnormalities and violent behavior, and whether one guarantees the other . . . Haycock concludes "that the neurological profile of the criminal psychopath is consistent with key features of psychopathy: a lack of moral sense and a lack of empathy." In the end, though, he admits that criminal responsibility cannot be traced unequivocally to a neurological basis but that such research can certainly begin an important conversation in the legal world." Publisher's Weekly
"By using a combination of current and historical case studies involving criminals and patients with brain damage, some of whom have been diagnosed as psychopathic, combined with the most recent neuroimaging research, Haycock provides an up-to-date picture of brain function and dysfunction . . . VERDICT: Haycock's solid overview of neurobiology is recommended for those who deal with criminal psychopaths, but also for anyone who reports on or who is interested in the subject." -- Library Journal
Haycock presents scientific evidence that supports his position, including data from fMRI studies that point to physiological differences between the brains of criminal psychopaths and those of nonpsychopaths. But the existence of a neurologically identifiable signature in the brains of psychopaths is merely the tip of Haycock's iceberg. The real tangle involves the implications--social, legal, judicial, and scientific--of the potential that we could predict someone would become a murderer from his or her brain scan. -- The Scientist Magazine
". . . an informed, masterful account of the theory, research, controversies, and issues surrounding the construct of psychopathy . . . His balanced and scientifically sound coverage of the literature and issues are admirable and refreshing. Readers not familiar with the technology and procedures of neuroscience will appreciate the way in which Haycock makes the science understandable, interesting, and relevant. Highly recommended." -- Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us and developer of the the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised.
"Haycock mixes in just enough real-world examples and plain language to make the challenge interesting instead of frustrating." - Bookzilla
“Murderous Minds is a gem. I became completely immersed in it and lost myself in the world Haycock created at the nexus of science, story, history, complete with downright wondrous narrative yarns to boot.” (James Fallon, Ph.D., author of The Psychopath Inside)
“In this fascinating page-turner, neurobiologist Haycock tries to uncover the correlation between brain abnormalities and violent behavior, and whether one guarantees the other . . . Haycock concludes "that the neurological profile of the criminal psychopath is consistent with key features of psychopathy: a lack of moral sense and a lack of empathy." In the end, though, he admits that criminal responsibility cannot be traced unequivocally to a neurological basis but that such research can certainly begin an important conversation in the legal world.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Can the tendency for criminally psychopathic behaviors be identified by analyzing neurological images? If so, what consequence does this have for science and society? Psychopaths are everywhere―an estimated 1 in 100 adults qualify. Most are nonviolent but not all: One subset of this group, criminal psychopaths, have aggressive and sometimes-violent tendencies and often fail to exhibit empathy or remorse despite knowing the difference between right and wrong. But Is it moral or legal to use this information to try to predict violent crimes or to influence a jury deciding a verdict? The author explores these tricky issues in accessible and insightful chapters that break down the science behind the data while using narratives of high-profile criminals―e.g., Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Mafia contract killer Richard “The Ice Man” Kuklinski, rapist and murderer Brian Dugan―to provide chilling real-lifeexamples of criminally psychopathic behaviors. Part true crime, part neuroscience and a page-turner from start to finish.” (Kirkus Reviews)
From the Inside Flap
Dean A. Haycock is a science and medical writer living in New York. He earned a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Brown University and a fellowship at the Rockefeller University. The results of his research conducted in academia and in the pharmaceutical industry, have been published in a variety of peer-reviewed academic journals.
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Top Customer Reviews
Some of us work in fields that expose us to psychopaths and their victims. Some of us live with psychopaths in our families. All of us live with psychopaths in our communities. This book helps the professional and the concerned citizen know just what it means to be psychopathic.
Frank M Ochberg, MD
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Michigan State
Former Associate Director, National Institute of Mental Health
If you have read either of the books previously mentioned, if you know who Dr. Robert Hare is or know what a PCL-R does, then you should find this book a fascinating addition to your knowledge base. If your only point of reference is Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" or Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs" you will probably find this tough going.
Haycock gives an excellent overview of research immediately prior to publication (3/14) with extensive footnotes and bibliography. Well done and very readable!
Today, neuroscientists are looking at the brain as a source for insight as to why people have these violent tendencies that can lead them towards committing murder. In particular, neuroscientists are looking at the brains of psychopaths: those who lack a conscience. In Murderous Minds, neuroscientist Dean Haycock takes us on a journey that examines the different patterns of brain activity in psychopaths, and to what extent such patterns can influence their psychopathic behavior. Throughout the book, Haycock provides ample research that indicates how differences in brain structure/function, genetic markers, as well as environmental factors play a role in psychopathic behavior. In addition, he discusses the limitations of the techniques used to round up the research presented in the book. With the powerful line of research that he offers, Haycock helps us understand the psychopathic individual.
Before delving into the mind of a psychopath, Haycock describes the general features of a psychopathic individual. He emphasizes how psychopathy differs from a psychosis. Although both of these individuals can commit the same type of crimes, their mental states are different. The difference is that a psychopath is aware of their actions and knows that it is wrong. Essentially, they are touch in with reality. By contrast, a psychotic person is out of touch with reality; they are encumbered with delusions and cannot differentiate between reality and the thoughts within their head. Other key features of psychopathy include lack of empathy, lack of conscience, superficial charm, impulsiveness and callousness. Although these are some features that describe psychopathy, psychologists are not in full agreement as to what a psychopath is. Once full agreement takes place, researchers can gather meaningful data about what differentiates a psychopath’s brain from a normal brain. A direct way to do this is through the use of one of neuroscience’s most popular tool: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
With the use of fMRI, scientists have reported subtle differences in structure and function between psychopaths and non-psychopaths. It provides us brain scans that reflect the brain activity of working brains. The overall trend of fMRI research suggests is that psychopathy can be linked with impaired regions of the brain that regulate emotions. The network involving these regions is known as the prefrontal-temporal-limbic system. Psychopathic behavior is linked to impairment in the structures belonging to this system. Impairments include decreased volume of gray matter, decreased brain activity, and disturbances of neural pathways that link regions within this prefrontal-temporal-limbic system. These impairments can affect the regulation of emotions; studies have linked the psychopath’s inability to process emotions to such impairments.
Even though the fMRI provides brain scans that reveal these brain impairments, it comes with limitations. Haycock indicates that changes in the brain’s blood activity aren’t large; they are small changes that are difficult to identify since the brain’s activity is like “noise” consisting of many signals. In addition, Haycock encourages the audience to be wary when looking at brain scans, particularly when looking at the color coding; color coding may give the illusion of huge differences in brain activity when little actually exists. Despite of its limitations, fMRI has provided the groundwork in outlining a pattern that points to problems involving regions of the cerebral cortex.
Problems involving the cerebral cortex can also be linked to genetic variation. Genetic variation can influence a person’s behavior. Furthermore, the different effects of genes on brain development can influence a person’s violent tendencies. Specifically, the variations of genes can affect the metabolism of certain neurotransmitters. Studies have indicated that the inheritance of the “warrior” gene can be linked towards aggressive behavior. Another genetic variation affecting the metabolic of serotonin has also be linked to putting an individual at risk for developing psychopathy. Haycock, however, emphasizes that inheriting one or even multiple genes does not make someone violent or a psychopath. More importantly, it is not yet known what specific genes might influence psychopathic behavior.
If certain genes are not yet identified, then how about environmental factors? What role does it play in the development of psychopathy? Haycock introduces the issue of an environment involving child abuse. He draws upon a Swedish longitudinal study that revealed that children who were exposed to high victimization were more aggressive and scored higher on the PCL test (measure of psychopathy) compared to those males form the same background, but were not abused. This study replicated the results from a previous study that had a larger sample size located in the US Midwest. Given the results, research suggests a connection between child abuse and the risk of developing psychopathy. However, Haycock points out that even though there may be a connection between the two variables, it isn’t required for the development of psychopathy. He supports this by providing case studies where real life psychopaths, such as Eric Harris, were raised by decent parents.
Given the research regarding fMRI brain scans, genetic variations and environmental factors, there seems to be more than one way of influencing the development of psychopathy. Even though research has shown correlations that point to problems in the subcortical regions of the brain, it is not possible to create a cause-and-effect relationship between brain impairments and psychopathy. One thing that we can confidently say is that psychopathic individuals display different brain activity patterns compared to non-psychopaths in regions involving the processing of emotion and making moral decisions.
If one has a keen interest in learning about the nervous system, more specifically in the brains of psychopath, I recommend this. However, I believe it would be a little difficult to read for those who are not familiar with the vocabulary used in neuroscience. Since I’m currently taking intro to Neuroscience, I already have a sense of familiarity with most of the terms which aided my reading comprehension; this was particular beneficial for me when I read the section regarding how fMRI worked and its limitations. Haycock uses many of these technical terms which can bog down the audience. Even though Haycock cites plenty of scientific studies that are highly informative regarding the brain activity of psychopaths, I wish he provided more case studies of real life psychopaths.
Given my evaluation, I would give this book 4 out of 5 starts. Haycock does an excellent job in providing a narrative that describes the behavior of psychopathic individuals in scientific terms by providing ample fMRI research. However, he needs to balance much of the scientific research provided with more case studies of real life psychopaths that would illustrate much of the typical psychopathic behaviors discussed in the book.