People who commit "white collar" crime such as credit-card fraud and computer hacking have been found to have brains that are structurally different from the brains of non-criminals with similar backgrounds, scientists have found.
Psychological tests on white-collar criminals also showed that they were better at making decisions in the kind of "higher executive" brain functions associated with being good at business, researchers said.
The study found that, in effect, white-collar criminals had more grey matter than a comparable group of non-criminals, suggesting that there may be a biological basis for this kind of criminal behaviour, according to Adrian Raine, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
"They have better executive functions. They have better executive skills, such as planning, regulation and control. So in a sense these people have all the advantages we really want in successful business people," Dr Raine said.
"This study is agnostic in terms of the cause of these differences. All it is saying is that there are some differences."
The study, which has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal, used magnetic resonance brain scanners to compare 21 convicted white-collar criminals with a similar group of people of the same age and social class who had not committed such crimes, Dr Raine said.
He emphasised that the study did not show that difference in brain structure was the cause of someone turning to crime, only that there was an association between the two that might indicate a cause and effect.