A leading British criminologist believes that abnormal physical brain make-up can predict criminality behaviours in children as young as three.

Professor Adrian Raine, a former Home Office psychologist who now works at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that violent tendencies have a biological basis, which tests and brain scans can pick up.

It's a belief shared by Dr Nathalie Fontaine, who also spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington.

They told delegates that their studies show that psychopaths and criminals have smaller areas of the brain which regulate and control emotion and behaviour. They also believe that a lack of conditioning to fear punishment, which can be measured in toddlers before disruptive behaviour is apparent, can also be a strong indicator.

If tests prove accurate, they argue that early intervention screening could become as common as "normal" health tests and subsequent treatments could reap benefits for both the child and society.

Counselling to counteract innate behavioural problems and reinforcing positive behaviour rather than punishing bad might be part of the solution. Also boosting the brain with medicines or foods rich in Omega 3 could become commonly recommended treatments.

Posted by Penny Hosie on 24.2.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com