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The Brain of a Serial Killer

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The editors at Best Counseling Degrees decided to research the topic of:

The Brain of a Serial Killer

A serial killer is defined as a person who murders three or more persons in at least three separate events with a "cooling off" period between kills.

Patterns of Serial Killers


- Serial killers generally have a cycle during which they kill
- They most often kill during periods of stress
- After killing, they feel temporarily relieved of the pressure to kill
- A study of a group of 50 serial killers shows that the majority experienced abuse as children
- Breakdown of the reported abuse
- Some type of maltreatment, regardless of type - 68%
- Physical abuse - 36%
- Sexual abuse - 26%
- Psychological abuse 50%
- Neglect - 18%
- No abuse - 32%
- Studies show that child abuse is more prevalent among serial killers than in society in general
- Motivation for killing is varied, but often fall into these categories
- - Obtaining money
- - Experiencing the thrill
- - A sense of power
- - A desire to rid the world of evil doers

The Makings of Serial Killer

Findings of Dr. Helen Morrison


- Dr. Helen Morrison has studied serial killers and has interviewed 135 in total
- Morrison says that, regardless of how different their lives may be, serial killers have shocking similarities
- Morrison's research suggests that a chromosome abnormality is the most likely trigger
- Chromosome abnormality begins to express itself during puberty
- Serial killers (mostly men) begin to display their homicidal tendencies during puberty
- Studies show that serial killers never develop a sense of attachment and belonging to the world
- This lack of development means serial killers don't empathize with their victims
- They do not develop emotional attachment to their victims which allows them to "experiment" on them

Findings of Jim Fallon


- Neuroscientist, Jim Fallon, has studied the brains of psychopaths for over 20 years
- Fallon recently discovered he has a whole lineage of murderers in his ancestry
- He set out to determine how the brain of a serial killer is different from other brains
- He scanned his own brain and compared it to brain scans of psychopaths
- He also compared his brain to his son's, which showed normal orbital cortex activity
- Results showed that he had the same low orbital cortex activity as a serial killer
Fallon's discoveries

- The orbital cortex is the area that is believed to be involved with ethical behavior, moral decision-making and impulse control
- People with low orbital cortex activity are either free-wheeling types or sociopaths (according to Fallon)
- The orbital cortex helps control the amygdala part of the brain, involved with aggression and appetites
- Low activity of the orbital cortex means less normal suppression of behaviors such as rage, violence, eating, sex and drinking
- Fallon's research indicates that some people's brains are predisposed toward violence
- Psychopathic tendencies may be passed down from one generation to another
- In addition to brain scans, Fallon also tested DNA of his family for genes associate with violence
- His research led to zeroing in on the MAO-A gene (monoamine oxidase A)
- - also known as the "warrior gene"
- - this gene regulates serotonin in the brain
- - Serotonin affects your mood (a bit like Prozac)
- - Many researches believe that a certain version of the "warrior gene" won't respond to the calming effects of serotonin
- Scientists believe that the makings of a psychopath require three ingredients
- - Genetic makeup Brain patterns Abuse or violence in one's childhood
- Fallon's research has led him to change his thinking on nature vs. nurture
- He once believed that genes and brain function could determine everything
- He now thinks childhood experiences could be making all the difference

Fallon's brain (on the right) has dark patches in the orbital cortex, the area just behind the eyes. This is the area that Fallon and other scientists say is involved with ethical behavior, moral decision-making and impulse control. The normal scan on the left is his son's.

Serial Killer Frequency by Decade

(Decade of First Kill)


- Decade - US - International - Total
- 1900 - 27 - 11 - 38
- 1910 - 35 - 15 - 50
- 1920 - 29 - 28 - 57
- 1930 - 29 - 19 - 48
- 1940 - 27 - 37 - 64
- 1950 - 41 - 33 - 74
- 1960 - 146 - 56 - 202
- 1970 - 410 - 119 - 529
- 1980 - 549 - 160 - 709
- 1990 - 452 - 229 - 681
- 2000 - 245 - 167 - 412
- 2010 - 38 - 21 - 59

U.S. Serial Killers

Percentage by Race and Decade


- Decade - White - Black - Hispanic - Asian - Native American
- 1900 - 59.3 - 33.3 - 7.4 - 0.0 - 0.0
- 1910 - 45.7 - 54.3 - 0.0 - 0.0 - 0.0
- 1920 - 72.4 - 27.6 - 0.0 - 0.0 - 0.0
- 1930 - 55.2 - 44.8 - 0.0 - 0.0 - 0.0
- 1940 - 63.0 - 29.6 - 3.7 - 0.0 - 3.7
- 1950 - 80.5 - 19.5 - 0.0 - 0.0 - 0.0
- 1960 - 69.0 - 28.3 - 0.7 - 0.0 - 2.1
- 1970 - 62.6 - 33.0 - 3.4 - 0.5 - 0.5
- 1980 - 54.6 - 36.1 - 7.1 - 0.5 - 1.6
- 1990 - 43.5 - 49.7 - 5.5 - 1.3 - 0.0
- 2000 - 31.4 - 61.2 - 6.1 - 0.8 - 0.4
- 2010 - 34.2 - 57.9 - 7.9 - 0.0 - 0.0
- TOTAL- 52.4 - 41.2 - 4.9 - 0.6 - 0.8

Sources


- http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Research%20-%20Forensic/2005%2020-1-Mitchell-40-47.pdf
- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127888976
- http://www.businessinsider.com/12-shocking-and-twisted-facts-about-the-worlds-serial-killers-2012-6?op=1
- http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Serial%20Killer%20Information%20Center/Serial%20Killer%20Statistics.pdf


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