Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Teen Brain May Have Pushed Him to Violence


He and his colleague, Dr. Dan G. Amen, founder of Amen Clinics, have worked with violent teens who have shown damage to their temporal lobes.

If the left temporal lobe is not functioning right, you have this susceptibility to dark, evil and awful thoughts," said Payne.

When the cingulate, the part of the brain that acts like a "gear shifter," is in overdrive, those thoughts don't go away.

"You can't let go of it," he said, and that could have been the case with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Payne said the Tsarnaev brothers seemed "highly organized" at first in planning the bombing, but were a "mess of disorganization" afterwards.

"When the search goes on, there is not exactly a plan and no follow-up," Payne said. "The younger brother goes back to school as if nothing happened. They hijack a car, they are throwing bombs."

He suggested that the Tsarnaev brothers may have also suffered some brain impairment: Tamerlan was a boxer and Dzhokhar was a wrestler.

"If brain injuries occur, it makes them more susceptible to violence," he said.

There is "never an excuse" for the murders the Tsarnaevs were alleged to have committed, according to Payne, but that doesn't mean that education might not help prevent future tragedies.

"I think it's necessary to start teaching and training young people about the organ that controls and their entire life. We spend time talking about their heart, liver and kidneys, but the brain controls all of it. It's the inner action."

Whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves to face the death penalty if he is convicted of the Boston Marathon bombings is a "tough question to answer," according to Payne.

"I can't say yes or no. You have to look at the underlying reasons why it happened," he said. "Does it make sense to kill mentally disturbed people? That's the question that needs to be answered. You may have ADD or depression, but you cannot use it as a crutch."

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