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How to use the brain to predict if convicts will return to their old ways

Posting in Science

Can you predict with any accuracy whether convicts will reoffend after leaving jail?

Studies may still be in their infancy, but they have yielded some interesting results.

Researchers at the Mind Research Network in New Mexico have published a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which finds that there is a correlation between activity in certain parts of the brain and behavior we deem criminal.

See also: Will brain research lead to a ban on sports?

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology (fMRI), researchers tested 96 convicts and took scans of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) part of the brain. For the next four years after release, the scientists followed the progress of their subjects, keeping an eye on who ended up back behind bars, and who did not.

This is where it gets interesting. Convicts who showed low rates of activity in the ACC -- which is a region associated with decision-making, motor control and action -- were 2.6 times more likely to be rearrested for all types of crime, and 4.3 times higher for nonviolent crimes than those with higher activity. According to the research, these statistics take into account age, drugs, alcohol abuse and psychological differences.

There is a growing interest in this type of research, and even though it's worlds away from Minority Report, brain studies like this could help us understand behavioral patterns. However, as the authors say, more research needs to be done to prove the consistency of such results, and it's certainly "not ready for prime time."

Via: Nature

Image credit: Woody Hibbard

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— By on March 26, 2013, 9:51 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure