Dr. Samuel Loomis once said, “The darkest souls are not those which choose to live within the hell of the abyss, but those who choose to break free from the abyss and move silently among us.” In this quote, it explains that anyone, your closest friends, a family member, or a neighbor could potentially be a serial killer. We have many thoughts on how and why these people become the way they do. The theory on whether a psychopath’s upbringing is pivotal to their behavior is still highly debated today. We believe that a serial killer is either created by either the brain or a psychologically abusive childhood; so, are they born or made?
In writing this essay on serial killers: born or made, the answer to the question is both. Certain activities in the brain, a gene, or activity in the amygdala, or if you were abused during your childhood; these are certain factors that ultimately decide if someone will be a Psychopath. Many infamous serial killers have the same upbringing, but there are a select few that weren’t abused during their childhood. Ted Bundy, for example, had a good childhood and showed no signs of abuse or neglect. It was presumed that he had low activity in his orbital frontal cortex. With this in mind, it could be said that serial killers can be both born and created. Over the course of the years, Adrian Raine and his team have scanned the brains of numerous murderers, and all of them have shown similar brain changes. Their brain showed reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain which controls emotional impulses, and overactivation of the amygdala, the area which generates our emotions. A study from 2000 by Dr. Richard Davidson concluded that people with a large amount of aggression – in particular, people who have committed aggressive murders or have a social disorder – have almost no brain activity within the orbital frontal cortex or the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas activity in the am glad continued perfectly.
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The orbital frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex control emotional impulses, while the amygdala controls reactions to fear. Davidson concludes that though setting can have an effect on a serial killer’s thoughts, it is a killer’s genetic makeup that inevitably creates murderous thoughts. If you have the high-risk form of a certain gene, however, if you were abused early on in life, your chances of a life of crime are much higher. But if you have the high-risk gene and you weren’t abused, then there really wasn’t much of a risk. So just the gene, by itself, doesn’t dramatically affect behavior, but under certain environmental conditions, there is a big difference. This gene produces an enzyme called MAOA, which regulates the levels of neurotransmitters involved in impulse control. If you lack the MAOA gene or have the low-activity variant, you’re suspected to lead a more violent path in life. This variant became known as the “Warrior Gene.” About 30% of men have this purported warrior gene, but whether the gene is triggered or not depends crucially on what happens to you in childhood. Raine’s studies also suggest that part of the reason may be childhood abuse, which can create killers by causing physical damage to the brain.
The prefrontal cortex is especially vulnerable. Serial killers also have certain biological markers: being male, certain gene variants, a low resting heart rate, brain damage, and a mother who smoked and drank during fetal gestation. Sometimes rejection or neglect can create a psychopath. As victims of abuse or rejection, serial killers or psychopaths find comfort in their fantasies and dreams that take them into a place that only they can control. I recognize that the childhood of a serial killer could cause them to become a psychopath, or perhaps their genetic makeup can create a serial killer. However, with frequent studies and findings of the brains of serial killers and the way they were raised, we can conclude that a serial killer is both born and made. With the studies of Dr. Raine, Dr. Davidson, and Dr. Fallon, we can confirm that if someone has the high-risk gene and wasn’t abused, then they are not going to become a serial killer, but if they were, then chances are they are a psychopath.
So it appears that a genetic tendency towards violence, together with an abusive childhood, is literally a killer combination – murderers are both born and made. Some biological factors can create a serial killer: you have the warrior gene if you lack the MAOA gene or low activity in the orbital frontal cortex. Some physical factors can create a serial killer: abuse, neglect, or rejection from the parents. All of the factors can mold someone into a psychopathic killer. “Society wants to believe it can identify evil people or bad or harmful people, but it’s not practical. There are no stereotypes.” These are the words of Ted Bundy, one of America’s most notorious serial killers, which suggest that, as this research paper started out suggesting, anyone might potentially be a psychopath.
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