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Researchers collaborating since 1985 have come up with a new model for the causes, prevention and treatment of anti-social behaviors related to crimes. It is known as neurocriminology.

This discipline combines criminology with neuroscience.

The research included in neurocriminology looks into the areas of:

  • emotion and cognition
  • cognition and anti-social behavior
  • emotional values
  • empathy
  • social cognitive neuroscience
  • automatic feeling and thinking

This model assumes that even disadvantaged individuals can develop pro-social thinking, along with proper behavior skills, in an effort designed to help them choose a pro-social life style.

Your brain was developed during the period before you were born, as well as in your childhood. It's not solely dependent on genes, but rather on your environment, as well. Many neural connections come about because of your social experiences. They direct thoughts, emotions and behavior unless you develop alternative connections.

The cells that network in your brain store and utilize information from the activities you do, in addition to input from observations and other experiences. Your brain was affected in childhood by experiential and environmental factors, and in this way the brain records the past and integrates what you have learned into the present and future.

If your brain is exposed to adverse conditions during your growth period, that can affect it in the long term. The problems in society may result in risk factors for crime. Children who show anti-social behavior have been studied and found to have been raised in an environment of hostility, poverty, abuse or other failures of parents and others.

Your brain can change its thought patterns, to a degree. It makes new connections as experiences change, or reinforces older connections if conditions persist. Research in neurocriminology identifies the risk factors for anti-social behavior, as well as factors that lead people to pro-social behavior. Through these findings, we learn that we can help anti-social individuals as they work to develop more pro-social neural pathways.

Early criminological risk factors can possibly be overcome by later, positive experiences recorded by the brain. The trajectory of your brain may go from anti-social to pro-social after a lifelong of experiences. If you have enough positive experiences, you may develop a brain that leans more to the pro-social level.

An offender rehabilitation program once based on a simpler model will need to be revised to accommodate the neurocriminology model. We can teach offenders cognitive skills that will allow them to fight more pressures towards anti-social behavior. The programs in use have proven to be effective in helping to give the brain a pro-social stance, which lessens the chance of further crimes. There are limits to its possible successes, though.

The newer programs being implemented as part of offender rehabilitation use specific techniques that may be able to foster pro-social development of the brain. There are different programs for specific groups of offenders, and there is also a program in place for youth that are at risk for anti-social behavior and crime. This would be a further positive step for neurocriminology, since it would work to pre-empt the number of crimes in the future.


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