Fallon is a neuroscientist who was given the brains of a number of murderers to study. Mixed in were brains from non-killers. His research found that there were both genetic and environmental factors involved in the shaping of those who kill multiple times. Let us examine what some of these factors are.

Why you should listen:

Only lately has Fallon turned his research toward the subject of psychopaths — particularly those who kill. With PET scans and EEGs, he’s beginning to uncover the deep, underlying traits that make people violent and murderous. In this talk he shared a surprising discovery about his own family that prompted him to bring his work home.

Who is he:

Jim Fallon teaches neuroscience at the University of California Irvine, and through research explores the way genetic and in-utero environmental factors affect the way the brain gets built— and then how individuals’ experience further shapes its development. He lectures and writes on creativity, consciousness and culture, and has made key contributions to our understanding of schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“I am interested in the neural circuitry and genetics of creativity, artistic talent, psychopathology, criminal behavior, and levels of consciousness.” Jim Fallon

Watch his followup talk from The Moth at the 2011 World Science Festival >>


  1. Fallon studies behavior based on brain operations at the cellular and circuit level. He says that sociopathic killers are the result of combinations of four things. These are:
  1. Fallon says that as a result of his studies, he has come to believe that certain regions of the world are “tinderboxes” because….
  1. He believes that a sex linked gene, called ______ is a precursor to sociopathic murderers.
  1. Even if they have the gene from their mother people are unlikely to become serial killers unless the experience___________ prior to ________ .
  1. Fallon shows that there are a significant number of murderers in his own family line. Does this prove the “Bad Blood” theory?
  1. Defend or refute the thesis that “biology is destiny” as it apply to serial killers.

Making Connections:

The criminal mind and the path to moral integrity with Feggy Ostrosky

Exploring the mind of a killer with Jim Fallon


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