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Psychiatry Res. 2008 Aug 30;163(3):201-12. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2007.08.012. Epub 2008 Jul 26.

Brain anatomy of persistent violent offenders: more rather than less.

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  • 1Department of Forensic Psychiatry, Niuvanniemi Hospital, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland.


Most violent crimes in Western societies are committed by a small group of men who display antisocial behavior from an early age that remains stable across the life-span. It is not known if these men display abnormal brain structure. We compared regional brain volumes of 26 persistently violent offenders with antisocial personality disorder and substance dependence and 25 healthy men using magnetic resonance imaging volumetry and voxel-based morphometry (VBM). The violent offenders, as compared with the healthy men, had markedly larger white matter volumes, bilaterally, in the occipital and parietal lobes, and in the left cerebellum, and larger grey matter volume in right cerebellum (effect sizes up to 1.24, P<0.001). Among the offenders, volumes of these areas were not associated with psychopathy scores, substance abuse, psychotropic medication, or global IQ scores. By contrast, VBM analyses of grey matter revealed focal, symmetrical, bilateral areas of atrophy in the postcentral gyri, frontopolar cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex among the offenders as compared with the healthy men (z-scores as high as 5.06). Offenders with psychopathy showed the smallest volumes in these areas. The larger volumes in posterior brain areas may reflect atypical neurodevelopmental processes that underlie early-onset persistent antisocial and aggressive behavior.

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