Background With the increased knowledge of biological risk factors, interest in including this information in forensic assessments is growing. Currently, forensic assessments are predominantly focused on psychosocial factors. A better understanding of the neurobiology of violent criminal behaviour and biological risk factors could improve forensic assessments. Objective To provide an overview of the current evidence about biological risk factors that predispose people to antisocial and violent behaviour, and determine its usefulness in forensic assessment. Methods A systematic literature search was conducted using articles from PsycINFO, Embase and Pubmed published between 2000 and 2013. Results This review shows that much research on the relationship between genetic predisposition and neurobiological alterations with aggression is performed on psychiatric patients or normal populations. However, the number of studies comparing offenders is limited. There is still a great need to understand how genetic and neurobiological alterations and/or deficits are related to violent behaviour, specifically criminality. Most studies focus on only one of the genetic or neurobiological fields related to antisocial and/or violent behaviour. To reliably correlate the findings of these fields, a standardization of methodology is urgently needed. Conclusion Findings from the current review suggest that violent aggression, like all forms of human behaviour, both develops under specific genetic and environmental conditions, and requires interplay between these conditions. Violence should be considered as the end product of a chain of life events, during which risks accumulate and potentially reinforce each other, displaying or triggering a specific situation. This systematic review did not find evidence of predispositions or neurobiological alterations that solely explain antisocial or violent behaviour. With better designed studies, more correlation between diverse fields, and more standardisation, it might be possible to elucidate underlying mechanisms. Thus, we advocate maintaining the current case-by-case differentiated approach to evidence-based forensic assessment.
T. van der Gronde, M. Kempes, C. V. van El