Wed
May 8 2013 8:45am

Where Do the Monsters Go?

Brain in FormaldehydeRecently, ABC News did a piece on Where Notorious Criminals Have Been Buried. Osama Bin Laden, Ted Bundy, Hitler, the Columbine shooters, Adam Lanza, Timothy McVeigh, Lee Harvey Oswald, Pol Pot...those whose crimes (or, in their fans’ views, heroism) make their final resting places targets for all kinds of mayhem create unique problems for their families and officials. But despite the intrigue in all the stories, the most interesting was that of Jeffrey Dahmer:

Dahmer was beaten to death by a fellow inmate while serving life prison sentences in 1994. ... After Dahmer’s death, his brain was kept in formaldehyde in the state pathologist’s office while his divorced parents disagreed over what to do with it. His mother, Joyce Flint, wanted the brain studied to determine whether biological factors were behind her son’s homicidal behavior, which included necrophilia and cannibalism.

His father, Lionel Dahmer, favored cremation, saying that is what his son wanted. Eventually, Jeffery Dahmer’s brain and body were cremated and the ashes were divided between his mother and father after a judge decided the brain should be cremated.

What do you think? Would studying the brain of a killer after his death lead to any answers?

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3 comments
Christopher Morgan
1. cmorgan
I'm no biologist, but would studying an inert brain be beneficial at all? Besides spotting and obvious physical deformities, I would think you would need to study the chemical reactions within the brain and how everything is firing up there to determine any personality quirks, no?
Laura K. Curtis
3. LauraKCurtis
That's kind of what I think, too, Chris. And speaking as someone with a decidedly abnormal brain, I can say pretty surely that you can't see any of the bizarreness just by LOOKING at it. The electrical impulses are all that matter. I suppose it he'd had a tumor in some specific spot, that might have given researchers an idea of where certain impulses were located in the brain?
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