The Biology of Violence

How Understanding the Brain, Behavior and Environment Can Break the Vicious Circle of Aggression

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There has been a revolution in neuroscience over the last ten years, and, as Debra Niehoff shows in the first book to examine violence from a complete biological perspective, now is the right time to consider how we are going to use the achievemen

There has been a revolution in neuroscience over the last ten years, and, as Debra Niehoff shows in the first book to examine violence from a complete biological perspective, now is the right time to consider how we are going to use the achievements of that revolution to reduce the level of violence in our society.

What is this new perspective that Niehoff presents? Simply that by understanding human biology we can control violence in our society. The debate over the roles of "nature" and "nurture" is over. Our genes do affect the likelihood of violence. And so does our mature brain chemistry. And so does our environment, as well as the nurturing we get as children and the social life we have with our peers. Everything affects us, but no one element is the sole determining factor. The real story that biology has shown us is that we recreate ourselves all the time, even as adults. Everything is involved in the ongoing process of life.

Niehoff brings together a wide range of research to show that we understand behavior in a totally unprecedented way, and that our ability to control violence effectively has never been greater. The awful consequences of violence for victims and perpetrators are not an outcome we have to accept. The vicious circle that connects bad genes, bad environment, and bad brain chemistry in a kind of feedback loop can be broken. As Niehoff shows, creating a caring, safe social environment is almost always the first step in halting the train of aggression.

The received wisdom is that psychological disorders such as violent aggression are too complicated, too intractable to be cured. In far too many cases, incarceration is the only solution we live with. But do so many people have to be in prison? Aren't there cheaper, more humane, and more civilized ways of dealing with violence now? Niehoff makes many surprising, fascinating, and provocative observations on the new science of violence.

Niehoff is eminently qualified to present these breakthrough ideas. A Johns Hopkins-trained neuroscientist and a biomedical communications professional, she has composed a book of vision and courage. More than merely a polemicist, here is that rare writer who can objectively and clearly present a whole new area of science and identify its explosive implications. Niehoff has a timely, powerful message. She demands science, and also compassion, in the face of violence. ...Continua

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