Segments in this Video

Introduction: Mind of a Rampage Killer (01:43)


In the wake of the Newtown massacre, we consider whether killers are born or made.

Sponsors: Mind of a Rampage Killer (00:47)

Sponsors: Mind of a Rampage Killer

Andy Williams (01:59)

Footage shows Andy Williams as a normal infant. He committed a school shooting in a San Diego suburb. How do people turn into rampage killers?

Origins of Research on Mass Shooters (01:46)

An expert rejects the attempt to explain mass shooters by diagnosis. 1966 spree shooter Charles Whitman's brain was autopsied at his request, the first such research.

Parts of Brain (02:04)

The prefrontal cortex calms the amygdala when a threat the amygdala perceives is not real. The wiring there tends to be faulty in violent people.

Genes and Environment (02:51)

Studies on rats show how nurture turns genes on or off, shaping behavior.

Strange Situation Experiment (03:58)

The baby gets upset when the mother leaves. Most mothers are able to comfort the baby on return, but some are too distant and fail.

Adolescent Brain (01:41)

During adolescence, the brain is extremely sensitive to threats. Stress can stunt development of the prefrontal cortex.

Andy Williams (03:11)

Andy Williams committed a school shooting at Santana High in Santee, CA. Father Jeff says he was not obsessed with violence. He used Jeff's gun.

School Shooter's Emotional Issues (01:18)

Andy Williams and his father had recently moved to California, away from his mother. Williams was badly bullied and sunk into despair.

Attempting Suicide by Cop (01:42)

Santana High shooter Andy Williams, now 27, gives an interview from prison. He wanted to be shot by cops and did not expect others would die.

Not Fitting In (00:56)

A sociologist studying school shooters finds that they are not loners, but rather people who try and fail to fit in in often tight-knit communities.

Dylan Klebold (01:59)

Klebold and Harris killed 13 at Columbine. Klebold was depressed, but hid his inner life from his parents. An expert reviews his writings.

Stroop Test (03:00)

Depressed people perform poorly on the Stroop Test, failing to activate necessary brain regions. These results may explain why they fixate on suicidal thoughts.

Desire for Fame (03:12)

Rampage shooters feel others see them as nobody, and want to change their image. Some cast themselves as Hollywood villains.

Stopping Rampages (03:33)

Can we spot warning signs for violence? Scientists have some ability to predict violent individuals, but most with risk factors never commit violence.

Juvenile Treatment Center (04:15)

At a juvenile treatment center handling Wisconsin's most violent teens, inmates talk to a psychologist about turning to violence in response to bullying.

Behavior Modification (03:25)

A juvenile treatment gives rewards and punishment for behavior and turns out a lower rate of repeat offenders than traditional youth prisons.

Mental Health Care Needs (01:47)

A mother worries that her 13-year-old son's, prone to uncontrollable violent rages, could become Adam Lanza. Her blog post on mental illness went viral.

Volatile Son (01:38)

A mother talks about early signs of mental problems in her son. He has pulled a knife on her.

Uncontrollable Behavior (02:28)

A volatile teenager talks about what it is like to go into an uncontrollable rage. His mother talks about her experience.

Lack of Diagnosis (01:08)

Medical science has been unable to cure or even settle on a diagnosis for a troubled child, but he is taking various medications.

Need for Intervention (02:03)

After Newtown, a mother worried about her volatile son becoming like Adam Lanza.

Credits: Mind of a Rampage Killer (01:23)

Credits: Mind of a Rampage Killer

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What makes a person walk into a theater or a church or a classroom full of students and open fire? What combination of circumstances and genes compels a human being to commit the most inhuman of crimes? Can science in any way help us understand these horrific events and provide clues as to how to prevent them in the future? As the nation tries to understand the tragic events at Newtown, NOVA correspondent Miles O'Brien separates fact from fiction, investigating new theories that the most destructive rampage killers are driven most of all, not by the urge to kill, but the wish to die. Could suicide - and the desire to go out in a media-fueled blaze of glory - be the main motivation? How much can science tell us about a brain at risk for violence? Most importantly, can we recognize dangerous minds in time--and stop the next Newtown?

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: FPT58699

Copyright date: ©2013

Closed Captioned

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