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Thread: TMS & Violent Crime Rehab

  1. #1 TMS & Violent Crime Rehab 
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    I haven't heard of any prisons experimenting with this, and I doubt the legality of doing so without fully informed inmates, but the idea of using transcranial magnetic stimulation to enhance area of the brain associated with empathy on criminals of violent crimes (not extreme violence like murder or rape, but assault and battery) seems like a far more logical approach to rehabilitating these individuals back into society than our current solutions. The idea is that for one individual to harm another, their empathetic abilities must be lower than normal, otherwise they couldn't push themselves to do it. Making the region of the brain associated with empathy more active could possibly turn these individuals into empathetic and caring members of society. What do you think?


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    ▼▼ dn ʎɐʍ sıɥʇ ▼▼ RedPanda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by plerza30 View Post
    I haven't heard of any prisons experimenting with this, and I doubt the legality of doing so without fully informed inmates, but the idea of using transcranial magnetic stimulation to enhance area of the brain associated with empathy on criminals of violent crimes (not extreme violence like murder or rape, but assault and battery) seems like a far more logical approach to rehabilitating these individuals back into society than our current solutions. The idea is that for one individual to harm another, their empathetic abilities must be lower than normal, otherwise they couldn't push themselves to do it. Making the region of the brain associated with empathy more active could possibly turn these individuals into empathetic and caring members of society. What do you think?
    Why do you think that TMS permanently affects a person's empathy levels?


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    Well it isn't permanent. TMS effects typically last for about 6 months with depression patients and so frequent treatments could be a part of the deal; a variance of probation. There is also the surgically implanted version of the treatment (sometimes referred to as cosmetic neurosurgery) which is practiced in NYC by Dr Lawrence Steele (I think I spelled that correctly) which is obviously more extreme, but would only need treatments every 2-3 years in order to recharge the magnets.
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    Quote Originally Posted by plerza30 View Post
    Well it isn't permanent. TMS effects typically last for about 6 months with depression patients and so frequent treatments could be a part of the deal; a variance of probation. There is also the surgically implanted version of the treatment (sometimes referred to as cosmetic neurosurgery) which is practiced in NYC by Dr Lawrence Steele (I think I spelled that correctly) which is obviously more extreme, but would only need treatments every 2-3 years in order to recharge the magnets.
    Ok - so it's not permanent.
    Then that would be one issue I would have: expecting ex-convicts to be repeatedly treated after their release.
    I doubt that it could be successfully enforced.

    Next question: how much evidence is there that TMS can be used to increase a person's empathy levels?
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by plerza30 View Post
    Well it isn't permanent. TMS effects typically last for about 6 months with depression patients and so frequent treatments could be a part of the deal; a variance of probation. There is also the surgically implanted version of the treatment (sometimes referred to as cosmetic neurosurgery) which is practiced in NYC by Dr Lawrence Steele (I think I spelled that correctly) which is obviously more extreme, but would only need treatments every 2-3 years in order to recharge the magnets.
    Ok - so it's not permanent.
    Then that would be one issue I would have: expecting ex-convicts to be repeatedly treated after their release.
    I doubt that it could be successfully enforced.

    Next question: how much evidence is there that TMS can be used to increase a person's empathy levels?
    Like I said, it would be similar to probation, and so you will always have your violators which is why it should only be for convicts of assault and not murder or rape (not to say assault isn't bad).

    I haven't found any research showing that TMS can be used to increase a person's empathy levels, but if it can increase one's level of happiness - it's showing to be more effective in treating depression than pharmaceuticals - the logic would follow that you could increase empathetic abilities as well. It's just a hypothesis of mine which I based on a handful of research papers that I've read.

    I'm now seeing what I really meant to ask: Since a lot of these convicts get released after serving their time anyway, and TMS could limit the probability of these individuals hurting others again; with the right amount of experimental evidence and barring the fact that some will avoid treatment and just be re-institutionalized, would it be an ethically acceptable thing to do? As the State would be neurologically altering these people in order to release them back into society.
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    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    I would think that TMS might be acceptable if it were approved as an experimental program with the proper safety parameters having already been established by testing on non-human subjects.

    At some point, all science has to move to human experiment to establish whether the results achieved on the test subjects/species can be transposed to human subjects. There should be some among the inmate population that would want to improve their chances of success and be willing to experiment in such research just as many non-inmates who suffer from incurable disease are willing to risk the latest experimental science because their current prognosis using conventional methods is not hopeful.

    As far as 'doing it' without permission, I do not believe that our current charters on human rights permits such, especially as we are discussing persons who have not committed violent crimes.
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    But do you think that altering the neurological state of inmates, even with their consent, is ethical? I mean society would benefit, but then it could be argued that TMS is like steroids for your brain.
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    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    I am of the opinion that as we learn more through brain science, that treatment with magnets may be found to be less harmful to the overall biology of the person than pharmaceuticals.

    If the informed consent is based on good science, on what criteria would the ethical component to the inmate not be met? Is it not unethical to release persons back into a societal situation where they are exceedingly likely to fail without assistance? How are the ethical needs of the general public being addressed when inmates with a history or reoffending are released yet again without any change save the passing of time incarcerated?
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    Quote Originally Posted by plerza30 View Post
    I haven't found any research showing that TMS can be used to increase a person's empathy levels, but if it can increase one's level of happiness - it's showing to be more effective in treating depression than pharmaceuticals - the logic would follow that you could increase empathetic abilities as well. It's just a hypothesis of mine which I based on a handful of research papers that I've read.
    Although I have found articles related to TMS possibly affecting depression, that is not the same as increasing happiness. (Depression is not simply a lack of happiness.)
    And, even if TMS can increase happiness, that doesn't automatically mean it can increase empathy.

    Quote Originally Posted by plerza30 View Post
    Since a lot of these convicts get released after serving their time anyway, and TMS could limit the probability of these individuals hurting others again; with the right amount of experimental evidence and barring the fact that some will avoid treatment and just be re-institutionalized, would it be an ethically acceptable thing to do? As the State would be neurologically altering these people in order to release them back into society.
    If TMS was shown to work, I would definitely be in favour of it being used - but the immorality/morality of forcing people to receive treatment is not really relevant.
    The pertinent question is "Is it legal?" and if (e.g.) chemical castration is legal, then I am sure that TMS could be made legal too.

    But it looks like far more research needs to be done before TMS becomes an accepted treatment.
    Currently, its efficacy is not proven.
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