Prefrontal Dysfunction Theory In Criminology

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The two most widely known neurologically based theories in criminology are Reward Dominance Theory and Prefrontal Dysfunction Theory. Reward Dominance is based on the proposition that all behavior is regulated by two opposing mechanisms; the Behavioral Activating System (BAS) and the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS). These systems are associated with specific neurotransmitters that affect behavior. The theory states that criminals, especially chronic offenders, have a dominant BAS that leads to them being overly sensitive to reward cues and relatively insensitive to punishment cues. The other neurological theory to be discussed is the Prefrontal Dysfunction Theory. This theory maintains that damage to the Prefrontal Cortex, which sits just…show more content…
These mechanisms are the Behavioral Activating System (BAS) and the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS). The BAS is associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that moderates pleasure in the brain. It is released during pleasurable situations and causes one to seek out the pleasurable activity. This means food, sex, and several drugs of abuse are also stimulants of dopamine release in the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex. Because the BAS is associated with dopamine, it is easy to understand why the BAS is sensitive to reward cues. “The BAS activates behavior in response to cues of reward or non-punishment” (O’Brien, Frick 1). The BAS motivates us the find pleasure. In contrast, the BIS is associated with the neurotransmitter Serotonin and brain structures that control memory. Serotonin is regarded by some researchers as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance, and that a deficit of serotonin leads to depression. The BIS is sensitive to threats of punishment and can be likened to a brake that stops a person from going too far too fast. “The BIS produces anxiety and inhibits ongoing behavior in the presence of novel stimuli, innate fear stimuli, and signals of non-reward or punishment” (O’Brien, Frick 1). The BIS is what we can rely on to tell us when we have had enough for our own
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