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Can a brain injury lead to criminal activity?

What causes people to commit crimes? This is not a simple question to answer. Individuals may become criminals for a variety of reasons, some of which may be beyond the criminal’s control.

One such risk factor for engaging in criminal behavior is a traumatic brain injury, according to a new study. The study claims that a TBI can increase the odds that someone will commit a crime by 60 percent.

The study is based on the medical records from the 1980s for about 30,000 people from Western Australia. Of those, about 8,000 had experienced a TBI in the past. After controlling for other possible risk factors like mental illness, substance abuse and poverty, the researchers examined the subjects’ criminal records. They then compared those results with the TBI sufferers’ siblings, including twins when available.

The results: about 10 percent of siblings without a history of TBI committed criminal offenses before they turned 30, and those siblings with a past TBI broke the law 18 percent of the time. Statistically, this represents a 60 percent higher risk of criminal activity based solely on whether the subject has ever sustained significant brain injury.

The study does not appear to speculate how TBI leads to criminal behavior; at least, an article about it in Medicalxpress.com does not discuss the issue.

But the findings do suggest another way that brain trauma can affect someone years after the actual injury occurs. It may be difficult to receive financial compensation from the party responsible for your head injury for having to go to jail, but things like medical bills and lost wages are common types of damages awarded.

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