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Publisher's Summary

Provocative and timely: A pioneering neurocriminologist introduces the latest biological research into the causes of - and potential cures for - criminal behavior.

A leading criminologist who specializes in the neuroscience behind criminal behavior, Adrian Raine introduces a wide range of new scientific research into the origins and nature of violence and criminal behavior. He explains how impairments to areas of the brain that control our ability to experience fear, make decisions, and feel empathy can make us more likely to engage in criminal behavior. He applies this new understanding of the criminal mind to some of the most well-known criminals in history. And he clearly delineates the pressing considerations this research demands: What are its implications for our criminal justice system? Should we condemn and punish individuals who have little no control over their behavior? Should we act preemptively with people who exhibit strong biological predispositions to becoming dangerous criminals? These are among the thorny issues we can no longer ignore as our understanding of criminal behavior grows.

©2013 Adrian Raine (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Violence comes in many varieties. Poverty and political persecution are good examples of violence, but so are mass killings and rape. Adrian Raine has spent decades investigating the latter variety. His book is an exhaustive, unvarnished survey of what is known about the neurobiological correlates of physical violence. It is deeply informative and it makes for disquieting reading. It wisely refrains from claiming a single cause for the problem or advocating a single solution. It is an indispensable reference." (Antonio Damasio, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, and Director, Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California, Author of Descartes' Error and Self Comes to Mind)

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  • Sires
  • Chesapeake, OH, United States
  • 05-28-13

Interesting Book the Roots of Abnormal Behavior

Please bear with me as I first talk about what drew me to this book, that requires a lot of explanation about James Fallon, who is a neuroscientist but who did not write this book.

I recently heard a TED Radio Hour segment by James Fallon, a neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine, who has been working with psychopaths, trying to physically differentiate the brain of a killer from that of a nonkiller. He was clued in by his mother that his father's family might have some members who were worth studying. He discovered that there was "a whole lineage of violent people-killers" including a connection of Lizzie Borden, who let it be said was acquitted of killing her parents in a court of law, but who has certainly been convicted in the court of public opinion. In a study he had done on Alzheimer's, he had talked family members into taking a PET scan and contributing a DNA sample, now he began to analyze these for signs of abnormality.

In reviewing the PET scan and genotypes of his close family members including his mother, wife and children, they were perfectly normal. But his own PET scan showed a lack of activity in his orbital cortex, a sign that many neuroscientists would regard as significant in that the orbital cortex is supposed to help to control another part of the brain called the amygdala that is associated with aggression. He also looked at the MAO-A gene in his DNA. This is a gene associated with the regulation of serotonin in the brain. If the person has a particular variant of the gene then the brain may not respond to the calming effects of serotonin.

Fallon's conclusion was he was separated from psychopaths who act out on their impulses by a loving and supportive upbringing. According to his TED talk, an insult to the brain or severe trauma at the right (very young) age is the link that might trigger the negative aspects of these variants.

I found this intriguing, so when I saw that this book was about the anatomical aspects of the roots of violence I couldn't pass it up.

First, it's readable. It's written at a level that is accessible to the average reader with some knowledge of the anatomy of the brain and an interest in crime. I don't buy his theories whole hog, but added to what I've read elsewhere and some experience that I have with multi-generational bad actors in families, I find this intriguing.

Adrian Raine talks about his own studies into psychopathy utilizing temp workers-- that's why they have been so unreliable!, longitudinal studies of twins and children and "The Selfish Gene"-- he was taught at University by Dawkins. He also gives examples from his own work in facilities for the criminally insane with violent rapists and murderers, and from his own exposure to criminal violence.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in crime and criminals and also likes to muse as to why it is that certain tropes are so popular within certain genres.

And then, shades of Bones, it looks like they are going to make Adrian Raine into a semi-fictional character in a TV crime drama-- I swear, the US just make make me want to pound my head against my monitor at times.

The narrator is quite good and easy to listen to.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin
  • SPRING, TX, United States
  • 08-23-13

Excellent book on the Neuroscience of Violence!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Anatomy of Violence to be better than the print version?

Yes - only because reading a book like this may bring on napping whereas listening to this book on the road made it easy to follow.

What other book might you compare The Anatomy of Violence to and why?

Probably "The Wisdom of Psychopaths" by Kevin Dutton. Raine's "Anatomy of Violence" was clearly more exhaustive; however "Wisdom of Psychopaths" was an easier read. Both books do an excellent job reviewing psychopathy and disorders in the brain.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Cowley – was your favorite?

He was the narrator and did not perform any characters.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes - Raine provided a case where a large African American man broke into a young Caucasian woman's apartment and brutally raped her repeatedly, beat her to a pulp, and then slit her throat. It was extremely graphic and made me feel dirty; however the questions posed by the case and the points Raine was trying to make really stuck with me.

Any additional comments?

Excellent and exhaustive look at the neuroscience of violence! Raine did an incredible job compiling his research, along with others in the field, and presenting it in a reasonable and topical format.<br/><br/>"The Anatomy of Violence" spends a majority of the time examining aspects and structures of the brain that are correlated with violence; however Raine takes it a step further to examine the heart, sweat glands, and other minor organs of offenders to look for correlations and patterns.<br/><br/>Raine also spends time looking at socio-economic factors and family influences to finally bridge the gap of the "nature vs. nurture" debate. Most of his examples and case studies were well picked and referenced to illustrate many of his points.<br/><br/>The only low point of the book was when he offers a hypothetical world and society in 2034. I'm not a fan of hypothetical's, but Raine did a great job using the hypothetical "future" to address philosophical and ethical questions to the reader. I've rarely read other non-fiction works that pose questions back to the reader, so I found this very engaging and impressive.<br/><br/>Pros: Comprehensive and organized look at the external and internal forces that produce violence in humans.<br/>Cons: More case studies and criminal interviews would've been nice, but there were no major cons.<br/>Bottom line: Excellent for anyone interested in crime and how alterations in the brain can affect behavior.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Dry but exceptionally well thought and delivered.

Almost a textbook, very dry, but if this is a subject matter that you enjoy knowing something about it ends up being a great book, that you can learn plenty from. And it's not just talk and theories, there are a LOT of studies quoted to back up opinions.

The author will also gladly tell you about the shortcomings of cited studies and possible holes in his theories, he's not a know it all, he's an intellectual.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Not sure if this kind of nonfiction has a "story"

But I found the content highly thought-provoking. I never realised how many factors came together to create crime, and it certainly persuaded me that a compassionate medical model to dealing with violence may be the ideal to strive for. Then again, I went into this book already disliking the revenge-oriented mindset of the US criminal justice system.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Violence is not just choice

Adrian Raine is a leading researcher in how the brain's development effects the way people think, respond to life's stressors, and process information. Research shows that people's ability to make good and right choices is not merely genetic, not is it all moral choice, but there are many factors that effect the development of a child's brain. Thought the narrator is not my favorite, the book is very well written and very engaging. I recommend this book for anyone in the fields of criminology, childhood development, medicine, and social welfare.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wow! Incredibly Interesting!

Where does The Anatomy of Violence rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is non-fiction, and in my many non-fiction purchases, it ranks in the top 10.

Any additional comments?

I hadn't heard much of these brain studies, and I was surprised and amazed at the depth of the program. Much insight into the how/why of violence, what might be causing it, how to predict it, who is responsible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Eye opening and astonishing

Adrian does a great job in waking the interest for neurobiology. Perhaps too many speculations based on correlations, but that is what makes the book an interesting read. The chapter on the future is the most fascinating.

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outstanding

out of the 60 books that I have read this year this is by far the most fascinating informational book that I've ever read

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My perception of this book

I loved it but also struggled to finish. this book was interesting but I also feel that it was overly extend. it didn't have to be 17 hrs to get its story across. but overall it was average.

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  • Douglas
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 01-24-15

Fascinating; Will challenge your thinking

This book was everything I expected and more. It was very interesting and educational. I really appreciated that the author did not shy away from providing the controversial conclusions that he came to through his years of studying violence and the brain. The fact that Raine actually conducted many of the studies he cited made it easier to put faith in what he said. I was engaged for nearly the entirety of the book. Towards the end, Raine spends quite a bit of time ruminating over a hypothetical future in which society is able to accurately predict how likely it is that an individual will become a violent offender. I found this to be a pointless exercise and it was the only portion of the work that I found to be uninteresting. The narrator doesn't add much but his accent is actually perfect for this book.