Are batterers different from other criminals? An fMRI study

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Abstract

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a complex and global phenomenon that requires a multi-perspective analysis. Nevertheless, the number of neuroscientific studies conducted on this issue is scarce as compared with studies of other types of violence, and no neuroimaging studies comparing batterers to other criminals have been conducted. Thus, the main aim of this study was to compare the brain functioning of batterers to that of other criminals when they are exposed to IPV or general violence pictures. An fMRI study was conducted in 21 batterers and 20 other criminals while they observed IPV images (IPVI), general violence images (GVI) and neutral images (NI). Results demonstrated that batterers, compared with other criminals, exhibited a higher activation in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortex and in the middle prefrontal cortex and a decreased activation in the superior prefrontal cortex to IPVI compared to NI. The paired t-test comparison between IPVI and GVI for each group showed engagement of the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate and the left angular cortices to IPVI in the batterer group only. These results could have important implications for a better understanding of the IPV phenomenon.

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