The lombrosian prejudice in medicine. The case of epilepsy. Epileptic psychosis. Epilepsy and aggressiveness

Enrico Granieri, Patrik Fazio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the nineteenth century, epilepsy became subject of experimental research. Lombroso established a relationship between epilepsy and criminality believing in the existence of epileptoid traits and atavism. He tried to demonstrate the common origin of epilepsy, criminality, and genius; factors deteriorating the CNS would act upon centers, which control behavior and ethics. This impairment would cause a lack of control on the lower nervous centers, reducing restraints of instincts and criminal behavior. He described developmental frontal cortex lesions in epileptic patients (today Taylor's dysplasia) and these observations supported the erroneous conviction of a relationship between criminality and epilepsy. Neurological, behavioral, and criminological sciences analyzed Lombroso's doctrine, whereas it was controversial that epileptic patients should be prone to violent actions and aggressive behavior. Today, there is an international panel of experts on epilepsy, which suggests five relevant criteria to determine if a crime committed with aggressiveness could result from epileptic seizures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-192
Number of pages20
JournalNeurological Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Aggressiveness
  • Cesare Lombroso
  • Criminality
  • Epilepsy
  • Genius
  • Psychosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Dermatology


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