The research, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated impulsive and antisocial behavior and centered on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that deals with regulating behavior and impulsivity. By looking at prison inmates, the scientists claim they were able to identify inmates with relatively low anterior cingulate activity and show these people were twice as likely to commit crimes in the future as inmates with higher brain activity in this region.
But this is brain science and has no real ramifications about how a government might one day use this information to decide who is, in a sense, a criminal before they even commit a crime, right? Maybe not.
Consider what Dr. Kent A. Kiehl, who was senior author on the study, director of mobile imaging at MRN and an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, had to say about the study's results. "These findings have incredibly significant ramifications for the future of how our society deals with criminal justice and offenders," Kiehl noted in a media statement.
"Not only does this study give us a tool to predict which criminals may reoffend and which ones will not reoffend, it also provides a path forward for steering offenders into more effective targeted therapies to reduce the risk of future criminal activity."
"These results point the way toward a promising method of neuro-prediction with great practical potential in the legal system," Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Philosophy Department and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, who collaborated on the study, said in a press statement. "Much more work needs to be done, but this line of research could help to make our criminal justice system more effective."