The hindbrain is responsible for maintaining life without requiring the individual to be consciously aware (Wright, Tibbetts & Daigle, 2008). Within the hindbrain there are a number of structures that have the potential to turn an individual towards a criminal lifestyle. The cerebellum is involved in regulating spatial orientation and integrating and interpreting sensory information from the five senses. If the cerebellum becomes damaged, learning skills will be effected and social tasks will become harder, if not impossible, to master. Additionally, the pons act like a bridge connecting the different sections of the brain. Although the pons has not been directly cited as causing criminal behavior it has been identified as a possible cause for brain processes that have been linked to criminality.
The midbrain is important within humans because of the convergence of sensory information that takes place within this region (Wright et al., 2008). Within the midbrain is the reticular activating system (RAS) which is responsible for sorting stimuli and sending important signals throughout the brain in response to the stimuli. The RAS also has the ability to choose which brain system has control over bodily responses, when calm the cerebellum is in control while the limbic system takes over during stressful events. Individuals who remain in high stress situations throughout the day will have a difficult time learning and are less likely to succeed in school or work and will be more prone to engage in criminal activities. Also, the ventral tegmental area has been linked with sensation seeking behavior and is believed to be structurally different in individuals inclined towards criminality.
The limbic system plays a role in learning and in responsiveness (Wright et al., 2008). An individual with damage in the limbic system is likely to be irritable, pessimistic, unmotivated, and generally more criminal. Within the limbic system, the amygdala is the emotion center while the hippocampus is the primary memory center. A damaged amygdala has been found to be responsible for violent and hostile actions as well as interfering with social emotions and moral reasoning. A damaged hippocampus is unable to interpret cause-effect relationships or effectively store memories or maintain sensory equilibrium which could cause learning disabilities or other problems likely to predispose an individual towards criminality. Although the thalamus has not been directly linked with criminality the hypothalamus is linked in regards to its regulation of autonomic nervous system responses (Beaver, 2009). The cingulate gyrus has been linked to the rage response within individuals and, when damaged, affects the ability to regulate repetitive thoughts (Amen, 2004). The nucleus accumbens has also been linked with criminality when it is unable to properly regulate risk-seeking behavior.
The cerebral cortex can be divided into four lobes each of which has the potential towards criminality if damaged (Wright et al., 2008). Damage to the occipital lobe can cause hallucinations and illusions. Over activity within the parietal lobe has been linked with sensation seeking and an inclination towards crime. The temporal lobe has been linked with schizophrenia and criminal behavior when damaged possibly due to the interruption to auditory processing and speech comprehension. Also, the temporal lobe has been shown to increase aggressive behavior when damaged (Amen, 2004). Lastly, damage to the frontal lobe could leave an individual with difficulties in problem solving, unable to focus and the inability to follow complex sequences this dysfunction often leaves an individual with poor manners, inclination towards violence, inflexibility and severe mood swings.
The central nervous system has been found to be abnormal in chronic offenders whose brain waves have been found to be slower than average (Wright et al., 2008). Additionally, the autonomic nervous system has also been found to be abnormal in chronic offenders who have lower heart rates and skin conductance.
Amen, D. G. (2004). Images of Human Behavior: A Brain SPECT Atlas. Newport Beach, CA: Mindworks Press.
Beaver, Kevin M. (2009). Biosocial Criminology. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
Wright, John Paul, Tibbetts, Stephen G., & Daigle, Leah E. (2008). Criminals in the Making Criminality Across the Life Course. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications.