Leading article: Can the cycle of violence be closed?

Share
Related Topics

The news that some of Britain's leading neuroscientists are to collaborate on a study of children's brains is bound to be treated warily in some quarters. Nor will the purpose of the research – to investigate whether early abuse and deprivation might cause changes in the brain that foster disturbed and violent behaviour in later life – reduce the worries. Examining the brain for physical characteristics that might help to explain aberrant behaviour of whatever kind conjures up a picture of fusty laboratories, rows of jars containing brains preserved in formaldehyde, and long-discredited theories about nature always trumping nurture.

Several aspects, however, make this study quite different and thoroughly to be welcomed. The first relates to its genesis. It has been commissioned by Camila Batmanghelidjh's charity, Kids Company, which is known for its innovative work with some of the most deprived children in the country. Its approach, tailored to individuals and painstakingly practical, is about as far from ideological dogma as it is possible to be. In the course of their work, Ms Batmanghelidjh and her team have noted patterns of behaviour that some children prone to violence had in common. If the research identifies some change in the brains of such children that is associated with violence or neglect in their past, then treatment would be a more rational and humane response than criminalisation; prevention might also become possible.

The second reason to applaud the project is the calibre of those who are taking part and the institutions concerned. There will be no risk of unscientific dogma intruding here. This will be a pioneering study with the potential to revolutionise the treatment of young offenders. And the third reason why this study should not be clouded by prejudices from the past is that neuroscience has progressed very far from the examination of pickled brains. While posthumous brain research still clearly has a place, today's scanning technology makes it possible to study the brain characteristics and responses of living people.

Some scientists object that the technology is still too crude for any useful conclusions to be reached. They also fear that too great an emphasis on neurology could encourage a diminution of personal responsibility for criminal acts. These are obviously dangers to be avoided. But if there is any way in which damaged children can somehow be mended, and today's neuroscience can help us find it, it would be a dereliction of duty to pass up the opportunity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Supervisor & Advisor - Automotive

£16500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Day In a Page

Read Next
People struggle to board a train at the railway station in Budapest  

Even when refugees do make it to British soil, they are treated appallingly

Maya Goodfellow
 

Daily catch-up: immigration past and present, in Europe and in America

John Rentoul
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones