Is It the Body?
The Roots of Violence
● In the interview Professor Kenneth E. Moyer of Carnegie-Mellon University, Pennsylvania (USA), stated that certain conditions in our body can stimulate systems in our brain that can create a strong tendency to fight.
Do you feel that a person can become violent for no apparent reason?
There is much debate over this. However, there have been many cases like the one where a man gradually became more hostile toward his family. He attempted to stab his wife and daughter and was taken to the hospital in a mad rage. A brain tumor was discovered and when this was removed his aggression ended. Not all brain tumors cause such behavior. Yet experiments have shown that direct electrical stimulation in certain parts of the brain has caused some patients to feel angry and behave violently.
What has your research revealed to be contributors to violence?
There is some evidence that an excess of male sex hormones, low blood sugar and allergies may make some more inclined to be hostile.
Are these automatic triggers?
No, for our behavior is a result of more than our internal feelings. Even with strong feelings of hostility, a person, because of his learning experiences or environment, may not become violent.
But are you saying it is harder for some to avoid becoming violent?
I believe it is, though not necessarily impossible. For instance, a man, out of concern for his violent tendencies, came to one of my colleagues. Tests revealed a brain disturbance and efforts to locate it were made with electrodes inserted in his brain. At one point he got up to leave, saying: “I’m going to kill my wife!” Upon the pleas of the doctor, this man agreed to have his brain electrically stimulated one more time. Now the doctor stimulated a center of the brain known to be a suppressor of violence. Immediately the man became friendly, and said: “I really appreciate what you did. I certainly would have killed my wife.”
Is controlling brain function and body chemistry the answer?
For certain individuals it probably is. However, I do not think that it is the answer. Really to get control you have to care for the environmental factors that create frustration, and you have to make sure that nothing is wrong in the body.
Are antiaggression drugs helpful?
Drugs that regulate the balance of certain hormones have helped. A number of drugs can be quite useful in getting some people through a certain period in life. When these drugs are carefully administered by a doctor they do not make the patient a zombie, but treat a specific problem in the brain.
Why do you say in the long run we must depend on learning to stop aggression?
The use of brain stimulation or drugs is very limited. They are useless when someone is violent yet has no personal animosity against the victim, such as a hired killer or wartime bomber pilot. But instruction is needed also to provide positive examples of nonviolent persons.