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Biol Psychiatry. 1994 Sep 15;36(6):365-73.

Selective reductions in prefrontal glucose metabolism in murderers.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-1061.


This study tests the hypothesis that seriously violent offenders pleading not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetent to stand trial are characterized by prefrontal dysfunction. This hypothesis was tested in a group of 22 subjects accused of murder and 22 age-matched and gender-matched controls by measuring local cerebral uptake of glucose using positron emission tomography during the continuous performance task. Murderers had significantly lower glucose metabolism in both lateral and medial prefrontal cortex relative to controls. No group differences were observed for posterior frontal, temporal, and parietal glucose metabolism, indicating regional specificity for the prefrontal deficit. Group differences were not found to be a function of raised levels of left-handedness, schizophrenia, ethnic minority status, head injury, or motivation deficits in the murder group. These preliminary results suggest that deficits localized to the prefrontal cortex may be related to violence in a selected group of offenders, although further studies are needed to establish the generalizability of these findings to violent offenders in the community.

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