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Can electrical brain stimulation reduce violent crime in the future?

We see acts of violence every day. The governments have tried to reduce crime statistics by imposing many rules and setting punishments for lawbreakers. Recently, scientists have been experimenting to find new ways to address the matter. Researchers utilized transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for the first time to fight against violent crime. One 20 minute session has been found to reduce violent intent by up to 50%, according to researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the University of Pennsylvania.

Recent advancements in neurocriminology have shifted the focus of researchers towards biological factors. They believe biological factors have a more considerable influence on violent acts and aggressive behavior.

Researchers started their tests by posing a question. “Can an increase in response in the prefrontal cortex of the brain reduce the possibility of people engaging in violent acts?“ An ambitious hypothesis that has never been explored before but has good potential if successful.

The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain is the area that controls the higher cognitive functions of the brain. More complex mechanisms take place in the prefrontal cortex, such as working memory, action planning, and selective attention. In addition, after sensory information is taken in from our eyes and ears, information is processed in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

 

What is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)?

The method of direct current stimulation (tDCS) involves the introduction of electric currents directly into targeted areas of the brain to alter communication between neurons within those areas, thereby potentially changing behavior.

In this sort of intervention, researchers place electrodes on the relevant areas of the research participants’ skulls. They need to sit quietly while experimenters activate various levels of electric current. To work properly, experimenters apply TDCS to the participants’ brains by delivering this current for a prolonged period of time. In this experiment, this period was 20 minutes.

Transcranial direct brain stimulation works with a 9-volt battery that generates 1-2 mA current. This electrical current can be controlled very effectively without the need for medical training. Experimenters apply this current to the participants’ brains using small electrodes. These electrodes are placed on the scalp. Scientists believed that behavioral changes could be achieved by adding this external current for extended periods into the brain in order to change the neurochemistry. Although applying electrical currents to the prefrontal cortex had promising results, the reason for enhancement effects on cognitive functions is not apparent. Scientists still do not completely understand why applying low electric current directly to the brain promotes a reduction in violent acts.

 

How was the research administered?

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the University of Pennsylvania gathered a total of 81 volunteers, including 36 males and 45 females. These participants were randomly assigned to either the tDCS experimental condition or the ‘sham’ condition. In the tDCS experimental condition, participants received direct electrical brain stimulation. On the other hand, participants received only 30 seconds of electrical brain stimulation in the overall 20-minute session in the ’sham’ condition. Research subjects did not know which condition they were in because researchers manipulated low currents slowly. Therefore, subjects did not generally feel anything special during the procedure.

The day after the sessions, research subjects were presented with two hypothetical scenarios. These scenarios included images showing physical assaults:

  • A person is hitting another person’s head with a beer bottle.
  • A sexual assault.

 

Then, subjects were asked to use a scale of 0-10 and rate the scenarios. They were also asked to talk about the likelihood of carrying out each assault themselves in real life.

Next, researchers asked subjects to use the same rating scale to say how morally wrong they believed each act was. As a result, researchers could look at the data for the two groups to determine whether any apparent differences existed between their ratings.

 

The problem of the study

The gender difference between both groups is a problematic area in this study. In the sham group, there were 21 men and 21 women. However, there were 24 women and 15 men in the experimental group. Generally speaking, women are less violent than men, so the likelihood of having to have violent intentions is less in women in the first place. Furthermore, it seems rather questionable to expect accurate ratings from females on their likelihood of committing an assault, for example, in the scenario that a male commits a sexual assault on a female. The results could have been skewed in favor of the experimental group because it demonstrated significantly less intent and more moral wrongfulness than the gender-balanced control group.

 

Results of the research

In the experiment, the group of subjects who received direct electrical brain stimulation showed a 47% reduction in their intention to commit assault. In addition, their intention to commit sexual assault was reduced by 70% compared to the sham group who received no brain stimulation.

Additionally, researchers observed that 31% of these significant reductions in intent were caused by volunteers giving a higher rating to how morally wrong they thought the acts were following brain stimulation. As a result, a reduction in the likelihood of committing violent acts results from an increase in perception of moral wrongfulness.

 

Can we use electrical brain stimulation for criminals?

This does not surprise anyone that electrical brain stimulation methods are being studied for criminology-related purposes. Scientists are trying to implement a way to have practical and beneficial results for treating violent offenders.

Criminals with a long history of violence tend not to respond well to standard rehabilitation techniques.

Scientists believe that society’s boundaries and expectations, the complexities of nurture, poverty, and racial discrimination are solid reasons for criminals to commit violent acts. However, the biological factor is an area that needs more attention. These factors can influence violence inside individuals due to their brain structures and mechanisms.

 

Electrical stimulation near me in Las Vegas

Although electrical brain stimulation can reduce criminal intentions in people, a change in intention does not guarantee they will not go on to carry out violent acts. However, the first author of this study, Oliva Choy, highlights the fact that changing a person’s behavior begins with changing their intent, and repeated sessions of direct brain stimulation could be the key to achieving this.

If you live in Las Vegas and need physical therapy and electrical stimulation, you can contact our center. In addition, you and your loved ones can receive complete rehabilitation services at your home from us.

For more information, you can call (702) 871-9917 to get information about other Home Health services.

 

FAQs

What is transcranial direct current stimulation good for?

It was useful to reduce violent intent by up to 50% in research.

Does tDCS cause brain damage?

At the moment, there is no date to stay that it causes damage to the brain.

Does tDCS affect how smart we are?

It can make you better at math, more creative, and even boost memory.

Does FDA approve tDCS?

FDA has not approved tDCS yet.

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