Can Traumatic Brain Injury Lead to Criminal Behavior?

Can Traumatic Brain Injury Lead to Criminal Behavior?

Posted on: May 3rd, 2018 by Neurohealth Associates

We all feel deeply for those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), or commonly referred to as a concussion. They can happen to anyone who engages in competitive sports, physically rigorous/dangerous career paths, or victims of an accident.

Treating individuals who have undergone head trauma is becoming increasingly more effective in helping prevent further acts of aggressive violence in inmates both upon entering jail and subsequent to being released.

A new review of research led by investigators in the United Kingdom suggests that when a person is convicted of a crime and enters the justice system, screening for brain injuries or head trauma could reduce the chances of violent behavior continuing while the person is incarcerated or after they are released.

A group of researchers from several universities in the UK including Exeter, Glasgow, Sheffield, Oxford, and Manchester collaborated on a review of existing research on crime and head injuries. Their results showed a higher risk of early and violent criminal offenses in those who had experienced a traumatic brain injury. Young adults that are in the system are also at a significantly higher risk of suicidal behavior and self-harm if they have suffered a head injury. The results represent a challenge to a long-held assumption by some that head injury and incarceration are coincidental.

Lead author of the review, Professor Huw Williams, of the University of Exeter, explained, “Addressing TBI offers a means to not only improve the lives of those who offend but also to reduce crime. A range of measures could reduce the risk of crime following TBI. These could include any form of neurorehabilitation, and better links between emergency departments, community mental health services, GPs and school systems that might lead to early identification and management of TBI in children and young people, particularly in areas of socioeconomic deprivation. On a person’s entry into the justice system, there is an opportunity to deliver routine screening for TBI and provision of treatment options.”

Brain injuries can result from repeated minor blows to the head, or even just a single head injury. The more severe the injury, the more likely it is that the patient could experience depression, anxiety, and angry outbursts or self-harming behavior. The review, which was published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, showed that in the UK 10-20% of prisoners had experienced a moderate to severe head injury and an additional 30-40% have suffered minor head injuries.

The study included data on specific types of injuries that are correlated with problems like aggression or ADHD. Injuries to the frontal part of the brain are seen more often in patients who have committed violent crimes. When ADHD is successfully treated there is a lower incidence of criminal behavior which could be because aggressive impulses are better controlled.

The review highlighted the need for more research, while also acknowledging that it’s difficult to tease out if the criminal behavior was related to injury, or if it was associated with an environmental cause like poverty or abuse. Many well known violent criminals have histories of TBI or mild head injuries, but then not everyone who experiences head trauma becomes violent.

But, what if we could get in front of the head trauma before it causes criminality or even non-criminal acts of aggression or the thoughts thereof?

Neurofeedback has been shown to alleviate cognitive fatigue, difficulty focusing, mood problems such as anger/rage, memory issues, chronic pain and more.

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