There’s no denying childhood trauma alters brain function. Some studies indicate it can even permanently change DNA. Fortunately, our brains are neuroplastic -- scientists say that with professional help, we can change at least some of this chemistry, despite early disadvantages.

When considering why someone commits crimes, however, childhood trauma is just one factor. While it can help explain behavior, it shouldn’t serve to excuse it.

How many people with brain scans similar to those mentioned the State Journal series "Gun Violence in Madison | Cycles of Trauma" don’t participate in deviant behavior? Not everyone who grows up in a violent or dysfunctional home becomes criminalized. Throughout history, people have suffered unspeakable trauma -- including violence, poverty and oppression -- yet they lead decent lives.

Why is that? With everything being equal, what are the variables, if any, that make someone with a history of trauma choose a meaningful path over a life of crime? We can’t overlook that some don’t possess consciences or strong moral codes, and are attracted to lives of crime. I’m not certain this is something we can blame on brain chemistry.

We are more than our brains. We also have a mind and inner voice that work together to make sage choices.

Paula Fitzsimmons, Madison

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