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Brain Injury in Serial Killers

Updated on July 28, 2009

Is it possible that everyone has a serial killer gene lurking in their DNA that is held in check by the frontal lobe? Studies show there may be a possible link between frontal lobe injuries and those who become serial killers.

According to an article by Annabelle Rutigliano entitled "Predestined Serial Killers" every human may have the propensity to become a serial killer. Luckily, however, in most cases, a person's frontal lobe keeps this propensity in check.

How the Frontal Lobe Works

In humans, the frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for much of the behavior that allows humans to live together in stable social relationships. It is what stops most human beings from acting on their inherent violent tendencies.

The frontal lobe is responsible for self-control, judgment, planning, and the balancing act that humans must learn to do which determines the importance of an individual's needs over the needs of society as a whole.

By Camazine
By Camazine

Evolution of the Human Frontal Lobe

Biologists have come to realize that the frontal lobe in humans has evolved side-by-side with humans' evolution from a beast to a social animal. In fact, human beings have the largest frontal lobe of all social primates.

Brain Injury Among Serial Killers

46% of known serial killers have not sustained injuries to their frontal lobes. In most cases, these killers readily admit that they realize the killing they have done is wrong, although they seemingly were unable to stop themselves from continuing to kill.

But what of those who have injured the frontal lobe? Approximatly 70% of those having sustained severe head trauma develop aggressive tendencies and hair-trigger violent reactions to situations that other's would deal with in a more passive way. Even this, however, does not mean that everyone with a head injury will become a serial killer.

Childhood Abuse

Many who have grown up to be serial killers were abused, either physically, mentally, or both, by their parents, especially their own mothers. While abuse alone may be enough to turn certain individuals into murderers, it can also be the cause of the frontal lobe injuries sustained by many of these killers. 

Cold-Blooded Killers

Unlike human beings, reptiles are not equipped with the part of the brain that is responsible for memories, socializing, emotions and even parental instinct. Therefore, saying a serial killer is "cold-blooded" is a reference to the fact that the part of their brain regulating emotion and socialization is not working properly. Rather, it is performing in a way similar to a real reptilian brain which allows its owner to kill without remorse.

Development of a Serial Killer

Of course, while studies of serial killers' brains are ongoing, there are many different schools of thought on what causes a person to become a serial killer. While brain damage seems to be a major factor in their development, traumatic circumstances during childhood are also believed to contribute greatly to the making of a serial killer.

To learn more about serial killers, read What is a Serial Killer?

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      Katiek471 

      13 months ago

      Fascinating article.

      The cause of serial killer behaviors is no doubt multifactorial, and identifying contributing factors such as brain damage, and child abuse is a positive step towards the possibility for early intervention and treatment of high risk individuals.

      I'm not fond of comparisons of the serial killer brain to the reptile brain, because it can be misleading and an over-simplification. Reptiles may lack a prefrontal cortex, but all are capable of forming memories, and exhibiting at least some emotions (fear, iritation, anger); some species also exhibit "parental instincts" taking streps to protect their young, and I bet if you checked recent research you'd be surprised when you find some species that engage in at least limited social behaviors.

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      Tanya Agarwal 

      3 years ago

      Can u name few criminals who have had frontal lobe injuries....the famous ones only

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      girl 

      6 years ago

      The risk of an individual developing schizophrenia in their lifetime is about 0.7% (figures between 0.5% and 1.0% are cited). Having received a head injury possibly increases this risk to 1.0 – 1.4%, according to these estimates. How this risk estimate translates into the occurrence of schizophrenia in one individual is, however, not known, but the conclusion would be that head injury would be a minor factor, if at all.

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      cstine 

      8 years ago

      I believe that it is possible for a brain injury to cause a disorder such as Schizophrenia. Perhaps becoming a serial killer due to a brain injury is the most severe result...but smaller scale disorders could appear. Especially if the frontal lobe has been damaged, Shizophrenia is a large possibility.

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      noreen 

      8 years ago

      Is it also possible then for brain injury to cause mental disorders such as Schizophrenia, and such? Where people with these disorders are known to have violent tendencies

    • profile image

      Serial Killer Magazine 

      8 years ago

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