Portrait Inti Brazil
Portrait Inti Brazil

Better mapping of offenders' characteristics through statistics

Inti Brazil is one of four Donders Institute researchers awarded a Vidi grant from the NWO in June. His study focuses on people with antisocial behaviour who are in special institutions. Within five years, a new approach will be developed that can help determine what correlation of neurobiological and -psychological factors can be used to describe people. In the clinical setting, this approach has the potential to sharpen diagnostics and interventions.

Interest in data-driven neuropsychology has long been in special facilities. Indeed, much neurobiological, and psychological data has been collected from antisocial groups worldwide. However, an approach to combine this data is still lacking. At the moment, the practitioner takes a close look at who that client is through, for example, IQ tests, personality tests, brain scans, psychological tests. This information is added to the file and a follow-up treatment is determined.

Better treatment through statistics

Brazil's research combines the file with large databases by using advanced statistical techniques. Inti: 'Soon it will be possible to see immediately whether someone is hypersensitive to reward, has a lot of attention problems, has trouble with emotion regulation, or just from different combinations of these kinds of factors. My approach makes it possible to reduce from a diverse collection of 50 scores about behaviour, neuropsychological functioning, and the brain to one to four underlying cognitive factors of interest.  My approach also considers the interrelationship between the factors. This is necessary because we know that behaviour arises from the interaction of all kinds of factors."

The next step is to present the results by means of user-friendly software that will make the distribution of scores on the factors for a particular person (a personal 'profile') easily understandable, which will also be started in the VIDI project. In the clinical setting, this not only speeds up the process, but increases the likelihood that interventions with the greatest chance of success will be chosen.

Unique opportunities within Donders Institute

The unique opportunities available within the Donders Institute made this grant possible for Brazil: 'Working out a method on which to conduct this research required considerable preparation that started years ago. Cooperation between the Donders Institute and the Pompenkliniek made it possible to use EEG equipment to measure brain activity on site, which allowed me to build one of my databases. Another is that this project requires a very specific form of statistics to combine and read out the data. Very few people are familiar with that, and one of them is Max Hinne at the Donders Institute.

The future

After the first five years, the research offers options for follow-up studies, which can look at whether using the profiles leads to better matching with interventions. The technology is broadly applicable in all kinds of clinical groups, but Brazil will use it to better characterise offender populations in forensic psychiatric settings. The Vidi grant for Inti Brazil opens the door to a future where we can better understand antisocial behaviour and treat it more effectively.

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