On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman murdered his mother and his wife before traveling to the campus of the University of Texas, climbing inside the tower, and killing fourteen others. He was dubbed the infamous UT sniper, but his story involves much more than Marine Corps training and a proclivity for violence. In fact, Whitman complained of headaches and an altered mental state in the days and weeks leading up to the killings. His own suicide note read that "I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts."
Whitman knew that something was wrong. His note further reads, "After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there is any visible physical disorder." And indeed there was. Whitman was found to have a glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, pressing against regions of the brain thought to be responsible for the regulation of strong emotions.
To learn more about the link between brain damage and violence, I reached out to Dr. Michael Koenigs of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Neuroscience Training Program, a researcher specializing in emotional, social, and personality changes following focal brain lesions. Please see the video above and/or the transcript below. And don't forget to weigh in by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page.
DISCLAIMER: Robert Bales has not been convicted of any crime.
GALLERY: UNUSUAL NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS
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