Harvard psychiatrist Anneliese Pontius believes that some "loners" who commit senseless acts of violence are suffering from a seizure disorder she has dubbed "limbic psychotic trigger reaction."
, who has examined hundreds of violent criminals, has documented the cases of 17 individuals she
believes suffer from the syndrome.
These individuals (13 murderers, three arsonists, and a bank robber) are characterized, she
says, by the following pattern:
subjects were "loners," Pontius
believes they may have brooded continually over mild traumas or slights, rather than talking them over with friends or family, and that this brooding eventually "kindled" seizures when subjects were exposed to people or objects that triggered their obsessive memories.
While Pontius's theory is provocative, other researchers suggest that her
subjects' violent outbursts stemmed not from "kindling," but from overt brain damage.
Paul MacLean, of the National Institute of Mental Health, says, "I think there must be lesions of some kind in most of Pontius's cases; we just haven't seen them yet."
Pontius is not the first researcher to link a specific criminal behavior pattern to seizure activity.
"Retroductive reasoning in a proposed subtype of partial seizures, evoked by limbic `kindling,'" Anneliese A. Pontius
, Psychological Reports, Vol.
76, 1995, pp.
Address: Anneliese A. Pontius
, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital
, Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114.