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A Killer Brain: A Look Inside Serial Killers

A research paper I have written on how serial killers brains differ from ours. A little lesson on what makes them tick!

According to the oxford English dictionary, a serial killer is defined as a person who commits a series of murders, often with no apparent motive and usually following a similar, characteristic pattern of behavior.

Have you ever wondered why serial killers kill; or wonder what makes Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahmer different from you?  Well there are a lot of things I’m sure, a serial killer is not solely based upon the makeup of their brain.  Environment plays a large role in all cases of the development of a serial killer.  But studies have been done that show similarities in the brains of your average murderer.   

First off, after the brains of 70 notorious serial killers were examined.  It showed that all seventy had some frontal lobe damage which would have been caused as children, by either abuse or accidental trama.  Now to understand why this is important you need to understand what this part of the brain is responsible for.  The frontal lobe located in the most anterior part of the brains hemispheres, and has been concluded by scientists to act as your conscience.  Its essential functions are Self-control, planning, judgment, the balance of individual versus social needs, and many other essential functions underlying effective social intercourse are mediated by the frontal structures of the brain.  This has been concluded by the massive amounts frontal lobotomy’s done in the 40’s and 50’s, and has also been shown to factor into about 64% of murder’s housed on death row right now in the united states(www.crimelibrary.com),  I’m not saying that if you fall on your skull as a child you’ll be destined to murderous tendencies.  I mean 36% are just fine and fully conscience of what they are doing.  But after doing some research I am starting to believe that on a genetic level some may be more prone to this type of activity.

A Gene called Monoamine oxidase-A (MAOA) also known as the violent gene, is something that has been found in almost all serial Killers and many violent offenders. It is a brain enzyme which helps clean up neurotransmitters after they’ve done their job.  Now there are two different types of cleaners, one that does its job and gets them all out; and one that does a piss poor job and leaves all these neurotransmitters sloshing around your brain driving you crazy.  Now if you have the bad enzymes cock-tailed with a history of violence such as abuse or even being bullied as a kid you will have an 85% chance of being violent and having violent tendencies.  An interesting thing about this, is it explains why we have so many more male serial killers than woman.  It’s not because were stronger or because we have too much testosterone.  It’s because our mother’s god bless them, have passed down the dysfunction in the form of the MAOA gene to their sons.  Many genetic diseases that are carried by females become active in their male offspring. For example, the most common form of color blindness, affects about 7 percent of men and less than 1 percent of women. It is identified as a sex-linked hereditary characteristic, passed from the mother to her son.

 

If we combine these two problems; damage to the frontal lobe with the dysfunction of the MAOA gene, we can certainly conclude that we have someone who is genetically pre-disposed for violence.  I like to think of the frontal lobe as stop button for violent and poor social decision making.  So if you have the violent gene and were abused as a child causing frontal lobe damage, it is a possibility maybe even a probability that you are not only going to be violent but you may even kill?  It posses a good argument as to why not to hit your children, as you could be creating a serial killer.

Some great resources if you wish to look onto this subject furthe:

Serial Killers A-Z:http://www.geocities.com/verbal_plainfield/encyclopedia.html

Another really good Serial Killer site:http://thepagandepot.com/serial_killers.html

An article on the MAOA Gene:http://www.blisstree.com/geneticsandhealth/maoa-gene-linked-to-violent-behavior/

Additional info on the frontal lobe: http://ligon.wcpss.net/curr/tutorials/brain/frontal.html

A lecture on the subject by Jim Fallon: http://www.ted.com/talks/jim_fallon_exploring_the_mind_of_a_killer.html

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User Comments
  1. sheema

    On August 5, 2009 at 12:33 am


    its so scary. dont u think that a persons mental health is ignored in all parts of the world. i mean the governments should conduct free tests on people to track down prospective serial killers.

  2. seamore danger

    On August 5, 2009 at 8:25 am


    That would be a good idea, the only problem is at that point they would be infringing on personal rights and it would cost a lot of money.

  3. Sylar

    On November 19, 2009 at 5:30 pm


    I bet a lot of people would want to find out if there was a possibility they were ever going to be a serial killer. Probably would make sense to save money on resources / payments in solving these types of crimes.

  4. Professor Hill

    On November 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm


    If they found out though and hadn’t showed any signs of killing before than they would probably become a killer regardless. Something usually triggers most psychopaths and if that time never came then they might be a normal citizen until they took the test. Which would suck! haha

  5. BJ Murphy

    On December 9, 2009 at 7:47 pm


    That’s when we’d provide help to those that have a possible link to such violent actions. This is where a lot of wealthy countries fail at understanding is that, if you treat an offender like a criminal, then they will eventually become what you perceived them as. Sort of like a Frankenstein thing, in how we are practically creating the monsters. The problem we have is that instead of helping these people that put harm to others, we treat them like criminals, which only worsens the situation.

  6. Scared

    On December 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm


    The video that goes along with this gave me chills.

  7. seamore danger

    On June 12, 2010 at 6:45 am


    Im sorry it was spell checker that messed that up on me, Sorry about that folks it’s fixed.

  8. amy

    On June 19, 2010 at 7:55 pm


    Actually, there are a few spelling errors and a whole word wrong! Perhaps you meant ‘conscious’ instead of ‘conscience’? :)

    Sheema – I find your comments more scary I think! Getting governments to test everyone to find ‘prospective serial killers’ is unbelievably worrying – particularly if, as is mentioned in the article, the 36% figure of killers who were aware of their actions and cannot blame their brains, would go unnoticed anyway. What would be done with people who were found to have problems with their frontal lobes? Would you lock them up for crimes they haven’t even committed yet? The article doesn’t mention any percentage of people in the general population who have frontal lobe damage but have never had violent tendencies – of which there must be a number – who has the right to presume that they would suddenly become a danger just because of that?

    An interesting article, though.

  9. dragondeathlord

    On July 24, 2010 at 1:30 pm


    Serial killers Might have a Some strange Gene that can account for abnormal behaver but a (MAOA) \\\”Bad Clean up gene\\\” combined would not be it.
    Some Serial killers have demonstrated demonstrated Advanced Intelligence and and quite few near super human Possitive qualitys.Including high charisma, abnormal Stamina and strength and reflexes. Many my self included would call Charles Manson a evil monster but none can claim him anything but Brilliant,Same with Adolf Hitler created several invention, painted and nearly ruled the world.(not going to start arguing if Hitler was a serial killer,only he had some of the classic traits). Nice to think all evil people and serial killers are some how defective and brain damaged but aggression and quickness to exploit and kill are Positives as far as Evolution concerned.

    So a Bad Gene that has good effects with bad side effect has been guessed about for years.Most are Caucasians and few that are not are almost alway descended from Caucasians originating in Central Europe. That dose sound genetic, Some have even gone so far as the point to New Genetic Evidence that links to Neanderthals traits.

    For example Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) A985G mutation in the medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) gene in some studys of surviving Siblings has been suggested to have some positive effects if you survive to adult hood.Such as a resistance to FLU. Explaining why Natural Selection dose not weed out such Genes.Inherit one it has a Positive effect get two you might die.Or in case of Serial Killers go crazy and Kill.

    But what of the people who do not but found positive avenue for there impulses? The stuff qualitys that make a Serial Killer aggression courage high intelligence can be found in Military
    wearing medals, Police department saving lives, in emergency rooms picking coldly and logically decisions saving more lives,Even Fire Fighters,Some are even Medical researches curing disease. Would you really want a world wear people wear sterilized or forced to register at birth based on the qualitys they inherited? On what they are genetically not who they are?

    (the legal Argument(it\\\’s bull crap) has been successfully used to defend African Americans in court that there prone to violence so should this apply to them? Should we register people with African Genetics? )

    Serial killers have those qualitys but so do many others who honest good people and find positive outlets for those qualitys.
    Alpha Males and Alpha Females.

    And anyone who have those ideas of Genetics being register should think of check there own first. And then check them selfs in to a Death Camp no one else.

    PS
    My father served his country 30 years and was a good and kind man as did his 3 bothers,one on research scientist inventor anther Police chief,One a engineer inventor.
    There Father (my Grand father) was a serial killer, Well connected and loved in a local Union. He was evil. Buried a man alive and Raped woman made her father watch before he killed him. And use to describe his friends as sheep to be slaughtered (this would be over a hundred years ago Now.) So please do not not argue the terminology. His grandfather (my great grandfather was a decorated U.S. General.)
    But none of my grand fathers children nor his Grandchildren(he had over 50) ever went to prison nor murdered anyone.Nor did there kids. Which all carry some of those serial kill traits. Like my father who Nealy beat 3 men to death stopping them in process gang raping a teen. Or my Uncle was decorated for carrying his commander 2 miles in Korea to med station even though he had 3 bullets in his own back. Or my Sister Who knocked out a Paramedic who declared a child dead on scene with out trying and was just going to tag and bag the girl. My sister is a licensed Nurse stopped her car got out saw the child and her Rescuers Crappy CPR attempt (he was doing only a token effort and gave up. My sister Teaches CPR classes) and took over and child was revived. The judge call the Prosecution a Moron and threw out the case out.
    My family might be overly aggressive and slightly Eccentric and one day probably turn out anther monster down the line but people should not be judge on what they are born with only how they use it. And world is better for my family existing even with the odd monster. One of my uncle Inventions saves more lives a year than all live taken by all those serial killers listed above. Genetic Profiling Such A UNGODLY Stupid Idea it deserves Upper case.

  10. dragondeathlord

    On July 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm


    Serial killers Might have a Some strange Gene that can account for abnormal behaver but a (MAOA) \\\\\\\”Bad Clean up gene\\\\\\\” combined would not be it.
    Some Serial killers have demonstrated demonstrated Advanced Intelligence and and quite few near super human Possitive qualitys.Including high charisma, abnormal Stamina and strength and reflexes. Many my self included would call Charles Manson a evil monster but none can claim him anything but Brilliant,Same with Adolf Hitler created several invention, painted and nearly ruled the world.(not going to start arguing if Hitler was a serial killer,only he had some of the classic traits). Nice to think all evil people and serial killers are some how defective and brain damaged but aggression and quickness to exploit and kill are Positives as far as Evolution concerned.

    So a Bad Gene that has good effects with bad side effect has been guessed about for years.Most are Caucasians and few that are not are almost alway descended from Caucasians originating in Central Europe. That dose sound genetic, Some have even gone so far as the point to New Genetic Evidence that links to Neanderthals traits.

    For example Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) A985G mutation in the medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) gene in some studys of surviving Siblings has been suggested to have some positive effects if you survive to adult hood.Such as a resistance to FLU. Explaining why Natural Selection dose not weed out such Genes.Inherit one it has a Positive effect get two you might die.Or in case of Serial Killers go crazy and Kill.

    But what of the people who do not but found positive avenue for there impulses? The stuff qualitys that make a Serial Killer aggression courage high intelligence can be found in Military
    wearing medals, Police department saving lives, in emergency rooms picking coldly and logically decisions saving more lives,Even Fire Fighters,Some are even Medical researches curing disease. Would you really want a world wear people wear sterilized or forced to register at birth based on the qualitys they inherited? On what they are genetically not who they are?

    (the legal Argument(it\\\\\\\’s bull crap) has been successfully used to defend African Americans in court that there prone to violence so should this apply to them? Should we register people with African Genetics? )

    Serial killers have those qualitys but so do many others who honest good people and find positive outlets for those qualitys.
    Alpha Males and Alpha Females.

    And anyone who have those ideas of Genetics being register should think of check there own first. And then check them selfs in to a Death Camp no one else.

    PS
    My father served his country 30 years and was a good and kind man as did his 3 bothers,one on research scientist inventor anther Police chief,One a engineer inventor.
    There Father (my Grand father) was a serial killer, Well connected and loved in a local Union. He was evil. Buried a man alive and Raped woman made her father watch before he killed him. And use to describe his friends as sheep to be slaughtered (this would be over a hundred years ago Now.) So please do not not argue the terminology. His grandfather (my great grandfather was a decorated U.S. General.)
    But none of my grand fathers children nor his Grandchildren(he had over 50) ever went to prison nor murdered anyone.Nor did there kids. Which all carry some of those serial kill traits. Like my father who Nealy beat 3 men to death stopping them in process gang raping a teen. Or my Uncle was decorated for carrying his commander 2 miles in Korea to med station even though he had 3 bullets in his own back. Or my Sister Who knocked out a Paramedic who declared a child dead on scene with out trying and was just going to tag and bag the girl. My sister is a licensed Nurse stopped her car got out saw the child and her Rescuers Crappy CPR attempt (he was doing only a token effort and gave up. My sister Teaches CPR classes) and took over and child was revived. The judge call the Prosecution a Moron and threw out the case out.
    My family might be overly aggressive and slightly Eccentric and one day probably turn out anther monster down the line but people should not be judge on what they are born with only how they use it. And world is better for my family existing even with the odd monster. One of my uncle Inventions saves more lives a year than all live taken by all those serial killers listed above.Probably one family member if they drive cars.
    Genetic Profiling Such A UNGODLY Stupid Idea it deserves Upper case.

  11. dragondeathlord

    On July 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm


    Serial killers Might have a Some strange Gene that can account for abnormal behaver but a (MAOA) “Bad Clean up gene” combined would not be it.
    Some Serial killers have demonstrated demonstrated Advanced Intelligence and and quite few near super human Possitive qualitys.Including high charisma, abnormal Stamina and strength and reflexes. Many my self included would call Charles Manson a evil monster but none can claim him anything but Brilliant,Same with Adolf Hitler created several invention, painted and nearly ruled the world.(not going to start arguing if Hitler was a serial killer,only he had some of the classic traits). Nice to think all evil people and serial killers are some how defective and brain damaged but aggression and quickness to exploit and kill are Positives as far as Evolution concerned.

  12. dragondeathlord

    On July 24, 2010 at 1:36 pm


    Sorry malfunction browser just did a bunch posts no idea why.

  13. diabla

    On October 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm


    all killers are humen not all have felings but they still humen and killers arent responsible for their actions responsible are those people who triggers killers actions for example are people who bulling others and those who are bullied have dreams how to kill them who are bulling them and they will plan plan and one day they will no longer tolerate bullying and will kill them all and now we have a killer and its isint his fult i have something for killers they are facinating me

  14. ScientificMind

    On February 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm


    If you are any sort of scientific professional, you should know that trying to present your opinion based assessments on what factors influence a person to become a serial killer as scientific fact is wrong. First and foremost MAOA is not a called the “violent gene”, rather it has been associated with certain types of antisocial behaviors in individuals with a high activity for it. Additionally, the originial scientific article that refers to the associations of alcoholism and violent behavior specifically states that MAOA showed no main effect on the risk for recidivistic violence. This means that having MAOA alone is not a factor for either violent behavior, OR for having such repeat occurence. The article does clearly state that there are associations between high alcohol usage, having MAOA and becoming a repeat offender, but not with MAOA alone.

    Knowledge is powerful, however, when it is misused and people are misinformed it can be very dangerous. Be careful what you read and whom you believe.

    Reference List.Tikkanen R, Sjöberg R, Virkkunen M, et al. Effects of MAOA-genotype, alcohol consumption, and aging on violent behavior. Alcoholism: Clinical And Experimental Research [serial online]. March 2009;33(3):428-434. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 28, 2012.

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