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24 April 2018

Evil, psychiatry, and terrorism: understanding the roots of evil

With terrorist attacks happening with alarming frequency across the globe, the latest issue of CNS Spectrums turns the spotlight on evil and asks: what is the relationship between evil and mental illness, especially in suicide terrorists?
This special issue of CNS Spectrums - entitled 'Evil, psychiatry, and terrorism' - is guest edited by Professor Donatella Marazziti from the University of Pisa in Italy, a recognised international authority in neurobiology and the treatment of different psychiatric disorders.
In her editorial introducing this thought-provoking collection of articles - co-written with internationally renowned psychiatrist Dr Stephen M. Stahl - Professor Marazziti concludes that evil is not a mental illness. However, to get to the root of evil she suggests that psychiatrists and neuroscientists need to investigate the brutality of evil’s most extreme manifestations, including any possible links to mental illness, as this is an area people have shied away from in the past.
To that end, this timely collection of articles by global experts from Italy, France, Germany and the US, aims to fill a gap in psychology and psychiatry by turning the spotlight on different global and historical contexts. This might help us understand the psychological and/or psychopathological processes that transform apparently normal' and often well-educated young people into suicide bombers.
Terrorism and violence in general should be approached by gaining a thorough understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms at the basis of human aggression and moral sense, argues Professor Marazziti, as well as by understanding the context that may lead someone to commit terrorist acts.
Contributions to this special issue include an article by the Vice-Admiral of Italy’s Navy as well as:
  • The mind of suicide terrorists, which concludes that there is no peculiar familial, educational, or socioeconomic factors that may account for religious radicalization leading to suicide terrorism. However, the authors identify some common psychological features such as isolation, feelings of emptiness, cold rationality, a lack of empathy, and a lust for martyrdom and death.
  • Psychopathology of terrorists, which finds that most available studies have failed to identify the common or typical pathological personality traits of modern terrorists.
  • Why is terrorism a man´s business, which concludes that experiences of threatened masculinity may be an underlying factor and driving force for terrorism.
  • How to fight terrorism: political and strategic aspects, which asks how we should deal appropriately with the global phenomenon of terrorism, based on the author’s years-long experience as a high-level expert and advisor within the security policy framework.
In order to prevent future acts of terrorism, the authors argue that further investigation is urgently needed to help understand the possible bases for terrorist aggression, including the early detection of psychological factors leading people to commit these acts.
The special issue of CNS Spectrums is available free to all until 31 May 2018 and can be accessed here.
Notes for Editors:
For further information, please contact Joon Won Moon, via email
About CNS Spectrums
CNS Spectrums covers all aspects of the clinical neurosciences, neurotherapeutics, and neuropsychopharmacology, particularly those pertinent to the clinician and clinician investigator. The journal features focused, in-depth reviews, perspectives, and original research articles.
New therapeutics of all types in psychiatry, mental health, and neurology are emphasized, especially first in man studies, proof of concept studies, and translational basic neuroscience studies. Subject coverage spans the full spectrum of neuropsychiatry, focusing on those crossing traditional boundaries between neurology and psychiatry.
CNS Spectrums is published by Cambridge University Press, in association with the Neuroscience Education Institute.
For further information, go to
About Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University's mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.
Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 50,000 titles covering academic research and professional development, as well as school-level education and English language teaching.
Playing a leading role in today's international marketplace, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world.


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