First Impression Post #3

The TED talk that I chose to watch was give by Jim Fallon, called “Exploring the mind of a killer”. The reason I chose this talk is because I have always wondered if chemical imbalances in the brain or differences in brain structure are what cause a person to turn into a psychopathic killer, or if its simply just an outcome of the environment they grew up in and the personality they developed (basically the standard nature vs. nurture conflict).

The talk started out with Fallon telling about some experimentation that he conducted with the brains of psychopathic killers. He pointed out that there was distinct brain damage in the brains of murders. Specifically, he pointed out damage to the orbital cortex and the anterior temporal cortex that was a commonality among the brains. He then talked about a gene for violence that is passed down hereditarily, which led him to speak about his own family history. He mentioned how earlier generations of his family were murderers (at one point he said seven men in a row on his father’s side). He chose to talk about this to emphasize that while the ‘violent’ gene can be passed on, it isn’t always.

Something that I found most interesting about the talk was how he explained why most psychopathic killers are typically male. He said that the gene that allowed for more violence/violent tendencies is located on the X chromosome, meaning that you receive it prominently from your mother. This is why males prominently end up with gene because the y chromosome that they receive from their father does not have the gene.

I found the presenter himself to be a reliable source. He led off the presentation by providing the audience with his credentials. He mentioned having a degree in neuroscience and being a professor on the subject as well. He then described the personal research that he did on the brains and how he even went as far as beginning to put his own family through CAT scans to try to trace where the ‘trouble’ would be in his family. To me, it seems that his credentials are good enough for him to be a reliable source on neuroscience.

A potential research idea for this subject would be to conduct a cross-sectional study on how different ages affect the potency of this gene. By dissecting and analyzing brains, in much the same fashion as Fallon did, of psychopaths of different ages, it could show whether there is a time when the brain is more apt to cause violence. This could be done by measuring the amount of damage to the orbital cortex and anterior temporal cortex. If a trend was found, then there would be more information on when someone was more at risk of doing something violent. Pairing this information with knowing whether or not someone has the ‘violent’ gene, would help us to understand why these psychopathic crimes are committed.

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One thought on “First Impression Post #3

  1. You did a great job of gathering what the speaker had said to gather if he was credible or not. I agree with your opinion and think that you are right to believe so from what he had mentioned about himself. I’m also very interested in your research idea. It’s a great idea to study ages (the when), rather than just the people (the who). My only thought would be providing an operational definition for “psychopaths,” as the term can be used so broadly and without just reason. Putting a clear label on who you want in your study will make things run smoother.

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