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VIOLENCE: Brain imaging and psychological study of violence and mental illness

Increasingly, violent attacks by people with mental illness are hitting the headlines, leading to the misconception that mental illness and violence go hand in hand. In fact, very few people with mental illness go on to commit violent crime, but it is a problem that is poorly understood. In order to find out more about why attacks occur, research is now considering whether there is a biological basis of violence in mental disorder.

Preliminary results from brain scanning in the Centre revealed structural differences in the brains of violent offenders with mental disorders. Research is now extending to look at brain activity and psychological characteristics of people with a history of violence, some of whom have come from Broadmoor special hospital. In the long-term, research like this could lead to better ways of assessing the risk from people with mental disorders who have been violent before.