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02/08/2013

An 'evil patch' lurking in murderers' brains?

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Self confessed mass murderer and right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik sits in the witness box being interrogated by the prosecution during his trialat the central court in Oslo on April 18, 2012. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Daily Mail, a U.K. tabloid, had a report this week that days later is still being roundly ridiculed online and, presumably, off. 

It starts like this:

"A German neurologist claims to have found the area of the brain where evil lurks in killers, rapists and robbers.  

Bremen scientist Dr Gerhard Roth says the 'evil patch' lies in the brain's central lobe and shows up as a dark mass on X-rays."

This "dark mass" apparently showed up on x-rays of all people with histories of criminal violence.

Dr. Roth says that sometimes people become criminals because of other physiological brain problems.

"But this is definitely the region of the brain where evil is formed and where it lurks," he adds.

Well.

Today, Guardian science bloggers helpfully point out that the story is "so ridiculous that explaining it required inventing a new part of the brain – the 'central lobe.'" (The four lobes of the brain are the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal.)

On FoxNews.com, Dr. Steven Galetta of the NYU Medical School had this yesterday:

"It’s probably a lot more complex than that...Certain areas are likely important for certain behaviors, certain attitudes. But it’s probably not as simple as X marks the spot for a particular behavior.”

Others were more succint:

"Epic nonsense," tweeted the Center for Applied Genomics, a research center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The story can be read in its entirety here

Kate Allen is the Toronto Star’s global science and technology reporter. Follow her on Twitter @katecallen

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