Every day, criminals are sentenced and put into jail for crimes they have committed. Did they have the knowledge and power to make a better choice than commit the crime, or was their poor decision a result of genes that predisposed them to transgress the law? According to a recent study, our genes may play a bigger role than we thought.

A study, completed by Finish, American, British, and Swedish researchers, discovered out of 794 Finnish prisoners, 568 had tested positive for Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Researchers accessed data from the Finnish CRIME sample, a database containing psychological tests and genetic material from 794 Finnish prisoners obtained from 2010 through 2011, reported Business Insider. After comparing the prisoners' genetic material to a large control group from the public, a number of genes were identified which may factor in on some cases of ASPD, reported Business Insider.

The Daily Mail reported the front cortex of the brain, where the LINC00951 and LRFN2 genes are expressed, is the region in the brain which determines and regulates our behavior.

According to Out Of The Fog, 80 percent of prisoners are believed to match the criteria for the disorder, though the diagnosis has been labeled controversial by some experts because of the disorder's broad and ill-defined nature. Symptoms for ASPD include deceitfulness, aggressiveness, disregard for safety of self or others, and irresponsibility, according to behavenet.com. Additionally, the characteristics of ASPD strongly overlap with psychopathy, reported Business Insider.

The same study claimed that genetic factors are 50 percent of the total liability for developing ASPD.

Researchers also warned about past claims used in court relating genes to violent behavior. These claims have been used by prosecutors in court as evidence of the defendant’s violent nature, and argue that an offender shouldn't be held as responsible as someone with different genetic makeup, according to Business Insider.

“The results of this study need to be interpreted carefully,” the researchers said. “The findings of this study cannot be implemented for any prediction purposes, or brought into courthouses to be given any legal weight.”

A separate study conducted by researchers from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine found out of 320 newly-incarcerated offenders, 113 of them had ASPD.

“Offenders with ASPD were younger, had a higher suicide risk, and had higher rates of mood, anxiety, substance use, psychotic, somatoform disorders, borderline personality disorder, and ADHD,” the researchers said.

This study didn’t include offenders who violated probation, required close supervision or seclusion, or violent offenders because they couldn’t be easily moved into the testing area, the researchers said.

“Offenders with ASPD are more likely to report poorer mental health and social functioning, to have substantial psychiatric comorbidity, and to report higher suicide risk,” the researchers said.

While these studies are connecting ASPD with prisoner genetics, they also may endanger defendants in court by having their genes used as evidence for a crime.

Source: Rautiainen M-R, Paunio T, Repo-Tiihonen E, Virkkunen M, Ollila H M et al. Genome-wide association study of antisocial personality disorder. Translation Psychiatry. 2016.

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