"Violence and the Brain" - Brain Forum Milan

Teatro Franco Parenti, Milano

March 7, 2016

at 6 pm


 Lectio magistralis

Adrian Raine

Neuroscientist and Criminologist, University of Pennsylvania, author of “The Anatomy of Violence

Neurocriminology[a1] : Implications for prevention, prediction, and punishment of crime


 Panel Members

Giulio Giorello, Professor of Philosophy and Epistemology

Edoardo Boncinelli, Geneticist

Marco Marchetti, Psychiatrist and criminologist

Alberto Oliverio, Professor of Psychobiology, Sapienza University, Rome

Amedeo Santuosuosso, Magistrate, President of the European Centre for Law, Science and New Technologies (ECLT) at the University of Pavia


Moderator: Viviana Kasam, President of BrainCircleItalia and Armando Massarenti, Editor of Il Sole 24 Ore Sunday edition


Concluding Remarks:

Giancarlo Comi, Director of the Institute for Experimental Neurology, Ospedale San Raffaele





In recent decades, the scientific community has categorically disputed the idea that violence and criminal behaviour might be rooted in biological factors. After Lombroso recent decades, the scientific community has categorically disputed the idea that violence and criminal behaviour might be rooted the social roots of criminal behavior.

But modern neuroscience, which attributes the matrix of human behaviour to the functioning of the brain, tends towards re-examining this position and highlighting genetic, social, and health influences on brain structure and function that in turn predispose to violence.

Adrian Raine, psychologist and criminologist, holds the Richard Perry University Professor Chair in Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and is recognized as one of the most important scholars of criminal neuroscience today. He has recently published a very readable, scholarly, and provocative book entitled “The Anatomy of Violence” (Penguin Books) which outlines findings from his 38 years of international research that he and others have conducted throughout the world. The book is in the process of being translated in italian by Mondadori Università, in the series “Science and Philophy”, and  will be available in the BrainForum bookstore,

Dr. Raine’s discoveries are striking. His research suggests that genetic and biological factors clearly predispose to crime and violence, and he identifies markers in early childhood (and even before birth) that may predispose people to crime. A predisposition towards violence can already be detected at only three-years-old and potentially prevented with simple low-cost methods. Importantly, he shows that these risk factors can be prevented. An early environmental enrichment for just two years at age 3 that included better nutrition, more physical exercise, and a cognitive stimulation reduce crime 20 years later by 34%.

According to Dr. Raine, biological factors (and there are many, including genes, malnutrition, exposure of the fetus to tobacco and alcohol, birth complications, environmental toxins, poor brain functioning) are often triggered when they interact with social factors. Yet biology is not destiny. He argues that while these biological risk factors raise the likelihood of future violence in a probabilistic sense, they can be changed. In this sense, even though Dr. Raine acknowledges that this recent research has its roots in Lombroso’s early thinking, this new reconceptualization of the biology of violence results in a much more positive outlook.

Dr. Raineough some idehave important implications for society. Should we combine biological risk factors with social risk factors to better predict future violence? How can we intervene to treat offenders? And if offenders are not responsible for the early biological risk factors that raise the likelihood of future offending, are they fully responsible for their criminal act? His interdisciplinary research will interest a wide audience including students, research scientists, social workers, teachers, police, parents, teachers, but especially judges and lawyers who find themselves dealing with the consequences of criminal behaviour on a daily basis.

A prestigious panel of Italian scholars will discuss Professor Rainethe consequences of criminal behaviEdoardo Boncinelli, geneticist and scientific propagator, professor of biology and genetics at the Universitiminal behaviour on a daMarco Marchetti, psychiatrist, criminologist and lecturer of Forensic Medicine and Criminology at the University of Molise; Alberto Oliverio, psychobiologist, professor at La Sapienza University in Roma; Amedeo Santusuosso, magistrate at the Court of Appeals in Milan, president of the Centre of Interdepartmental Research European Centre for Law, Science and New Technologies (ECLT) and lecturer at the University of Pavia;

Giulio Giorello, philosopher with a specialization in philosophy of science and ethics. Conclusions will be made by Prof. Giancarlo Comi, Director of the Institute of Experimental Neurology (INSPE), San Raffaele Hospital.

Armando Massarenti, editor of the Sunday edition of Il Sole 24 Ore and Viviana Kasam, journalist and president of BrainCircleItalia, will moderate the debate.

BrainCircleItalia is a non-profit organization which, inspired by Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini, was founded with the aim of spreading research on the human brain.


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