Sensible or senseless violence from the brain

Role of the hypothalamus in violence
  • Menno R. Kruk
  • József Haller


Violence is important in society. It is a “low frequency, high impact behaviour. It has important consequences, even if it does not affect us often: once is enough. It affects both victim and the social environment (e.g.1–4) especially so, if that environment is also threatened. Words like “senseless violence” are used if one cannot identify with the motives of the offender. Words like “pathological violence”, imply that such behaviour can be attributed to drug abuse, disturbed hormones or psychopathologies. Such attributions suggest lack of control over aggressive brain mechanisms in senseless violence. Alternatively, the very mechanisms involved in the direct expression of violence may be disturbed. Neuroscientific research in animals supports both views. Animal models highlight the hypothalamus as a critical node at the intersection of two types of brain mechanisms involved in aggression. One type of mechanism assesses the significance of potential and actual conflicts. Another type of mechanisms controls the direct expression of violence. Both types of mechanisms are modulated by hypothalamic mechanisms which monitor and adjust the endocrine state of the organism. These concepts are used to define pathology in aggressive behaviour.


Violent Behaviour Borderline Personality Disorder Brain Mechanism Gamma Amino Butyric Acid Direct Expression 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Menno R. Kruk
    • 1
  • József Haller
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Section Medical Pharmacology Leiden-Amsterdam Center for Drug ResearchLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute of Experimental MedicineBudapestHungary

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