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Example research essay topic: Prefrontal Cortex Sexual Predators - 1,920 words

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... the New Jersey Medical School in Newark, claims that there is a high probability that violent impulses originate in the hypothalamus, amygdala, and periaqueductal gray area (Foreman, 2002). As this occurs, different parts of the hypothalamus are likely to be involved in different types of emotions and/ or violence (premeditated type, cold type, or impulsive actions). In addition, some new studies present more detailed conclusions.

Thus, for example, according to Dr. Ronald Schouten, a psychiatrist from the law and psychiatry service at Massachusetts General Hospital, although brain damage that occurs in the prefrontal cortex may serve as an explanation to impulsive actions (such a sudden attacks, etc) (Foreman, 2002), this type of damage can hardly serve as enough evidence to the premeditated violence acts in sexual predators. To a certain extent this may be explained by the fact that prefrontal lobes perform mostly an "executive function", such as the processes of planning and integrating information the person receives, and, therefore, may serve as a specific mechanism enabling the person to control emotional impulses occurring in deeper brain regions (Foreman, 2002). To put it differently, if a sexual predator, who meticulously planned and performed child abuse act tried to defend himself and argue that he could not be accused of child abuse and, therefore, could not be liable due to brain damage to his prefrontal cortex, the court would hardly accept this explanation during the trial (Miller, Amenta, & Conroy, 2005).

However, as it is claimed by Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, the scientist who teaches psychiatry at Yale University and New York University, despite the visibly convincing brain scan data, there is no substantial explanation on how brain damage may cause and/ or explain the fact of violent and impulsive actions (Foreman, 2002). Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis considers that the vast majority of people with brain damage or brain dysfunctions, are not impulsive and violent by their nature, and the same assumption is valid for the vast majority of people with serious mental disorders (Foreman, 2002).

According to him, the most possible explanation is that the person is more likely to become a sexual predator, when this person with brain dysfunction is raised in an abusive environment, and is prone to the loss of contact with reality and psychosis. Therefore, the scientist considers that childhood abuse may be conductive to brain damage, both from the emotional response of childs brain to child abuse, or from direct head injury during the abuse. When the child is early exposed to traumatic events in his or her life, this early exposure may lead to a surge of stress hormone control, which, in its turn, can influence the function and structure of nerve cells in the child's brain. However, it should be taken into consideration that none of the recent studies mention the most obvious aspect of violent actions and/ or abuses, namely the fact that men are more likely to commit this type of acts than women.

For example, if comparing violence and crimes in men and women, according to FBI data from 1998, in the United States men are eight times more likely than women to commit murder, nine times more likely to commit armed robbery and four to five times more likely to commit aggravated assault. (Foreman, 2002) The theory that involves gender difference is based on assumption that the hormone testosterone is less abundant in women than in men. However, there is no enough evidence that testosterone is conductive to bursts of anger, or may trigger violence, being conductive to child abuse in sexual predators (Foreman, 2002). In its turn, some therapies and treatment methods imply utilizing anti androgens, such as cyproterone acetate (CPA) and medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). However, the scientists claim that in animals there are relatively extensive researches proving that aggression may be related to high testosterone level and that surgical removal of testicles producing testosterone (castration) decreases the level of aggression and impulsivity. According to the researchers, castrated male sexual predators are less inclined to repeat the acts of child abuse.

Another assumption is based on sportsmen taking steroids that are chemically very close to the male hormone. According to this assumption, these males are more aggressive and impulsive if compared with those, who do not take body-building steroids. The studies of prisoners also prove that increased level of aggression may be linked to high testosterone level. The researchers from the University of Iowa suggest that physically healthy people suffering damage to the prefrontal cortex are more likely to become antisocial and impulsive.

According to them, the persons with lower glucose metabolism in the prefrontal cortex are also more inclined to impulsive and antisocial behavior, because lower glucose metabolism in this region impedes inhibition of aggressive impulses. These findings have much in common with those made by Lewis and Dr. Jonathan Pincus, according to whom brain damage is conductive to aggressive, violent, impulsive and antisocial behavior irrespectively of the sex. For example, if compare sexual predators to murderers, the studies performed by Raine, show that the impulsive killers reported the poorest functioning in the prefrontal cortex (Foreman, 2002). Moreover, according to the researchers, impaired functioning of the corpus callosum (a band of tissue linking the right and left hemispheres) may also be listed among the factors contributing to more aggressive or antisocial behavior. Raine supports this assumption, claiming that this impairment may indicate that the right hemisphere (which is traditionally considered the emotional one) fails to communicate with the left hemisphere.

This inability impedes controlling aggressive impulses. In addition, the deep brain regions were also more active in the brains of the persons under study, than controls (Foreman, 2002). This is very important, because, according to the researchers, primitive emotions like aggression and fear originate from the deep brain regions. Also, Raine conducted a number of studies, where he used MRI technology to scan human brain.

This method is used to examine the structure of different brain regions instead of the functioning. MRI technology was employed to compare healthy people, people with antisocial personality disorders, people with psychiatric problems, and people with substance abuse problems. According to the results of the study, individuals suffering from antisocial personality disorders reported other classic symptoms of a predisposition to impulsivity and aggression. The researcher discovered that a low resting heart rate at age three predicts aggression by age eleven. (Foreman, 2002) At the same time, physiologically males have relatively lower resting heart rates if compared with those in females, thus making another assumption concerning the gender differences in impulsive and antisocial behaviors. In addition, although it may only indirectly affect sexual predators' behaviors, Raine has found that people inclined to impulsive and violent behavior, exhibit less physiological response to stimuli, such as slower skin changes and sweating, if compared to nonviolent people with no antisocial behavior. This allows coming to conclusion that there is a probability that impulsive behavior and violence may serve as a type of rush jolting the human brain toward more normal functioning (Foreman, 2002).

Also, Dr. Jordan Grammar, chief of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, confirms that persons with penetrating head injuries resulting in dysfunction and damage to prefrontal cortex, showed the increased risk for antisocial and aggressive behavior. In addition, the psychologist Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin have conducted numerous studies of aggressive behavior and human brain and came to conclusion that people with the signs of antisocial and aggressive behavior have diminished brain activity in the prefrontal region. At the same time, the brain activity in the amygdala was increased. Also, the researchers findings added evidence to the assumption that people with impulsive and aggressive behavior have disrupted functioning of serotonin, a key brain chemical (Foreman, 2002). Lewis at Yale University confirms that serotonin is vitally important for impulse control activity and the studies (up-to-date only on animals) confirm the idea that vicious and impulsive behavior rates increase when serotonin levels decrease, thus allowing to conclude that brain impairment and brain damage have direct relation to the pathogenesis of sexual aberrations and sexual disorders.

Conclusion In conclusion it may be said that although the research, so far, does not establish a valid and casual connection between biology and sexually deviant conduct, the hypothesis has right for existence. There are direct and indirect evidence of brain damage and its influence on sexually deviant behavior in adults, particularly associated with sexual predators and child abuse. Obviously, not all but still many sexual predators do possess at least one brain dysfunction making them predisposed to the extreme sexually deviant conduct. The brain abnormalities, however, can have different origins, as they can result from genetics, traumatic and painful childhood experiences, of stressful events occurring to the individual during his personality development or at the period when the individuals brain develops in the womb before his birth. Deviant sexual attraction to children originates in a number of ways, however, as far as different elements of psychopathy are associated to para limbic system, it appears that predisposition to pedophilia passes through particular regions of human brain. As it was mentioned, the temporal lobe is involved in personality and sexual behavior.

Also, for example, if this region of brain is damaged or functions improperly, the individual may become sexually attracted to inappropriate stimuli. Brain scans in sexual predators expose their below-normal activity in the temporal lobe, as well as some other dysfunctions in hypothalamus, and amygdala. In addition, impaired functioning of the brain regions is listed among the factors contributing to antisocial and more aggressive behavior. The individuals with impaired functioning in these regions of brain have difficulties with controlling aggressive and socially deviant impulses. Also, the individuals with penetrating head injuries resulting in dysfunction and damage to prefrontal cortex are also at increased risk for sexually deviant and antisocial behavior. The diminished brain activity in the prefrontal region is also among the signs of sexually deviant behavior in sexual predators.

It is relatively difficult to rationally discuss the hypothesis whether sexually deviant behavior in sexual predators occurs due to a variety of biological factors, ; however, taking into consideration all findings and scientific data, it is possible to conclude that brain impairment and brain damage have direct relation to the pathogenesis of sexual aberrations and sexual disorders. References Bechara, A. , Damasio, H. , & Damasio, A. Emotion, Decision Making and the Orbitofrontal Cortex. Care Cortex, 10, 295 - 307.

Englander, E. (2003). Understanding Violence. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Foreman, J. (2002, April 29).

Roots of Violence May Lie in Damaged Brain Cells. Retrieved August 2, 2008, from Los Angeles Times: web Hyde, J. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581 - 592. La Fond, J. Q. (2005).

Preventing sexual violence: How society should cope with sex offenders. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Miller, H. , Amenta, A. , & Conroy, M. (2005). Sexually Violent Predator Evaluations: Empirical Evidence, Strategies for Professionals, and Research Directions.

Law & Human Behavior, 29 (1), 29 - 54. Pretty, R. A. , & Burgess, A. W. (2000). Forensic Management of Sexual Offenders.

New York: Plenum Publishing Corp. Quinsey, V. , & La lumiere, M. (1995). Evolutionary perspectives on sexual offending. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 7, 301 - 315. Rowe, D. (2002). Biology and crime.

Los Angeles: Roxbury. Saver, J. , & Damasio, A. (1991). Preserved access and processing of social knowledge in a patient with acquired sociopathy due to ventromedial frontal damage. Neuropsychologia, 29, 1241 - 1249.


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Research essay sample on Prefrontal Cortex Sexual Predators

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