Prison brain? Executive dysfunction in prisoners

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A better understanding of the functioning of the brain, particularly executive functions, of the prison population could aid in reducing crime rates through the reduction of recidivism rates. Indeed, reoffending appears to be related to executive dysfunction and it is known that executive functions are crucial for self-regulation. In the current paper, studies to executive functions in regular adult prisoners compared to non-offender controls were reviewed. Seven studies were found. Specific executive functions were found to be impaired in the general prison population, i.e., attention and set-shifting, as well as in separate subgroups of violent (i.e., set-shifting and working memory) and non-violent offenders (i.e., inhibition, working memory and problem solving). We conclude that the limited number of studies is remarkable, considering the high impact of this population on society and elaborate on the implications of these specific impairments that were found. Further empirical research is suggested, measuring executive functioning within subjects over time for a group of detainees as well as a control group.
Original languageEnglish
Article number43
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date30 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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