Brain abnormalities in murderers indicated by positron emission tomography

Biol Psychiatry. 1997 Sep 15;42(6):495-508. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3223(96)00362-9.


Murderers pleading not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) are thought to have brain dysfunction, but there have been no previous studies reporting direct measures of both cortical and subcortical brain functioning in this specific group. Positron emission tomography brain imaging using a continuous performance challenge task was conducted on 41 murderers pleading not guilty by reason of insanity and 41 age- and sex-matched controls. Murderers were characterized by reduced glucose metabolism in the prefrontal cortex, superior parietal gyrus, left angular gyrus, and the corpus callosum, while abnormal asymmetries of activity (left hemisphere lower than right) were also found in the amygdala, thalamus, and medial temporal lobe. These preliminary findings provide initial indications of a network of abnormal cortical and subcortical brain processes that may predispose to violence in murderers pleading NGRI.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Homicide*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Glucose