New Study Says Traumatic Brain Injury May Be a Potential Cause of Violent Crime

It’s just the tip of the iceberg for a whole field of research that one day may help explain what motivates the mind of a killer.

Aaron Hernandez was posthumously diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which has been detected in individuals like the former NFL star who have endured repeated traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from external blows to the brain. Oxygen’s upcoming two-part special event “Aaron Hernandez Uncovered” examines the role that CTE might have played in his multiple murder allegations, convictions and shocking suicide. Now, a new study published February 26 in Lancet Psychiatry from England and Scotland lends weight to that possibility.

The study — “Traumatic brain injury: a potential cause of violent crime?” — is a collaboration between faculty at University of Exeter, University of Manchester, University of Oxford, London’s Centre for Mental Health, University of Sheffield and University of Glasgow. Among the major findings: The risk factor for people to become violent repeat offenders at a young age is double among those who have TBI, and so-called “prolific offenders” commit as high as 77% of all crimes.

“TBI compromises important neurological functions for self-regulation and social behaviour and increases risk of behavioural and psychiatric morbidity,” the study explains, adding that “crime in young people is a major social issue.”

Those with TBI who have been placed in treatment or in custody don’t have the best track record of being model patients or inmates.

“TBI is linked to poor engagement in treatment, in-custody infractions, and reconviction,” according to the study.

There’s some good news buried in what sounds like so many grim statistics on the surface, for the study also posits that early identification of TBI accompanied by various forms of neurorehabilitation can help lower the risk of crime. It’s just the tip of the iceberg for a whole new plane of research that one day may help explain what motivates the mind of a killer.

“Aaron Hernandez Uncovered” airs March 17 and 18 at 7/6c on Oxygen.

(Photo: Aaron Hernandez smiles at the sight of his fiancées Shayanna Jenkins from the defense table during jury deliberations in his double murder trial at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Apr. 12, 2017. By Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

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