I chose the TED talk called, “Exploring the mind of a killer” because I have always wanted to know how ordinary people become psychopathic killers.  In his talk, he explained the genetic, biological-epigenetic, and environmental factors that contribute to the making of a killer.  He first tells the audience that we see more violent male killers than female because of the MAOA sex-linked gene that is inherited from the mother.  Females can receive a MAOA gene from their mother but the x from their father will weaken the aggressive MAGOA gene.  With the MAOA gene, males in the womb are bathed in serotonin, causing their brain to become desensitized and unable to use it in order to calm down later in life. 

Next, in order to express this gene, the child has to be exposed to traumatic violence very early in their life.  This is what the presenter calls a “recipe for disaster” and is what causes the brain damage of a psychopathic killer.  He then goes on tell the violent history of his family which causes him to believe that his family has the MAOA gene for a psychopathic killer in the future. 

What I found most interesting about the talk was the comparison of brains between a normal adult and a psychopathic killer.  From the comparison, one could see the damage that the killer’s brain undergoes. 

Although this was an interesting talk, the presenter did not have any evidence that could back up any of his ideas.  He also only did pet scans of the brains in his family.  His family does have a history of violent killers and it would be fascinating to see the gene taking effect on their brains, but this is not enough people to conduct a true experiment. The presenter also only made two or three points to back up his ideas and none of them were proved to be actually correct.  Even though his points make sense, for those reasons, I did not find the presenter and his information trustworthy.

A research idea I have is to find various volunteers who know they have violent ancestors and find various volunteers who know they do not have violent ancestors.  I would pair up each group and make sure that they lived in the same area, being either violent with a lot of crime or calm with barely any crime.  I then would analyze the brain results of each of the groups from the violent and nonviolent area where they grew up.  I would look to see if there were brain differences in all the different children.      


One thought on “Neuroscience

  1. I think it is important that you mentioned the study presented in the TED talk was bias because the research done was only on the presenter’s family. This would not be considered a random sample. You are also correct in saying the sample size was not large enough to make any valid conclusions. I would also agree that if the presenter only discussed two or three ideas to back up his conclusions, they may not be accurate.
    I believe it would be hard to conduct your study because people may not want to admit to having a violent family history. Also, people brains may have the disposition to be violent, but they may not have ever acted on it. Therefore, it would be impossible to distinguish that people’s family’s do not contain the gene. It is a good idea to control the environment subjects are placed in, whether that be violent or nonviolent. This component would be an important aspect to the experiment. You should define what age the children in the study would be so someone could replicate the experiment later.

    Myers, D. G., & DeWall, C. N. (2016). Exploring Psychology (10th ed.). NY, NY: Worth.


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