BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 6 November, 2000, 23:59 GMT
Brain damage 'causes bad behaviour'
Damage to the brain can change behaviour
Anti-social behaviour may be linked in some cases to brain damage suffered as a child, researchers have found.

A team from the Institute of Child Health has found that brain damage inflicted on a specific area of the brain can lead to serious anti-social behaviour in puberty and adulthood.

The discovery raises the possibility that brain scans could be used in future to determine which people are most likely to suffer from long-term behavioural problems following an accident.

We may be able to identify such cases in future, by brain scans following the accident

Professor Faraneh Vargha-Khadem
The ICH researchers examined the case of two boys who suffered brain damage early in life through accidents.

In both cases the ventral region of the frontal lobe of the brain was damaged - this is the area above the eye sockets.

By the early teens both boys were unable to control frustration or anger, could not monitor or control violent behaviour, had no insight into the consequences of their actions, and showed no concern for others.

One was almost expelled from school as a threat to his peers, while the other has a criminal record, and a drink and drugs problem.

Impulse control

The ventral part of the frontal lobes is thought to dampen down the desire to act on impulse - allowing people to learn how to behave appropriately.

This role clearly develops throughout childhood, however the two boys showed no significant concerns about behaviour until puberty.

Lead researcher Professor Faraneh Vargha-Khadem said: "We may be able to identify such cases in future, by brain scans following the accident.

"Not only might we be warned of such future problems but we may be able to correct them."

Professor Vargha-Khadem said the key to successful treatment would be to act as quickly as possible while the developing brain was most capable of adapting to change.

"If some key function is damaged in childhood, it is well established that other parts of a child's brain can develop so as to pick up such functions.

"Rigorous training in behaviour, social skills and rules of conduct would encourage other parts of the brain to acquire this crucial role."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

28 Mar 00 | Health
Amphetamine brain damage measured
24 Oct 00 | Health
Lead 'accelerates ageing'
18 Oct 00 | Health
Premature babies 'have lower IQs'
27 Jul 00 | Health
'Lasting effects' of newborn pain
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories