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Santa Monica College to Host Panel on Roots of Violence
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By Lookout Staff

April 1, 2016 -- The Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute will host a panel discussion this month on an age-old debate -- are violent individuals shaped by their genes or their environment?

Hosted by the Institute and KCRW, the April 25 event will take a scientific look at the role played by the brain in violent acts that victimize more than 7 million people in the U.S. each year, mainly women and children, organizers said.

"Most of this aggression occurs in fits of anger, some is driven by substance abuse, and much of it is in the form of physical abuse or domestic violence," institute officials said.

The panel will focus on the brain and its role in violence, recognizing that the brain mediates all human behavior; society and social pressures, and the role of peers and family."

The panel also will discuss the evidence behind many medical theories about the causes of violence, as well as new approaches for trying to change violent behavior, officials said.

The panel features Dr. Michael Wilkes of KCRW’s "A Second Opinion;" James Fallon, Fulbright Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience at UC Irvine; Skipp Townsend, co-founder and CEO of 2nd CALL, a violence reduction and reentry program based in South Los Angeles, and Gail Wyatt, PhD and professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Director at the Center for Culture, Trauma and Mental Health Disparities at UCLA.

Fallon was the national scientific coordinator for the NIH Functional Brain Imaging Research Network for ten years and is credited with discovering the neuroanatomical basis of psychopathy, as well as other discoveries tying coding and non-coding genes and behavior.

His research program has used brain imaging and genetics to study behavior ranging from depression and schizophrenia to murder and the actions of dictators.

"Fallon and his colleagues are interested in the neural circuitry and genetics of creativity, artistic talent, extraordinary abilities, psychopathology, criminal behavior, levels? of consciousness, and reconstruction of the paleolithic brain and genome," Institute officials said.

Fallon is a Subject Matter Expert in the field of “cognition and war” to the Pentagon’s Joint Command and Vice Chair of the American Land Forces Institute and is a member of the Vatican’s Arts and Technology Council.

Skipp Townsend, who was identified as an active gang member in the CAL Gangs database for more than 27 years, has received training from several institutes after transitioning from gang life,' officials said.

He currently facilitates intervention training through the Los Angeles Violence Intervention Training Academy for Los Angeles city certified intervention workers and law enforcement officials, as well ass life skill courses in various LA area communities and prisons in the LA area.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Gail Wyatt, who is the director of the UCLA Sexual Health Program, has conducted national and international research funded by major institutions on mental health and drug abuse.

As an Associate Director of the UCLA AIDS Institute, Dr. Wyatt "coordinates a core of behavioral scientists who consult with other researchers to recruit underserved populations and conduct research that effectively incorporates socio-cultural factors into HIV/AIDS research," officials said.

Dr. Wyatt, who has testified before Congress eight times on issues related to health policy, was the first African-American woman licensed as a psychologist in the state of California.

At the end of the discussion there will be Q&A followed by a presentation about the City of Santa Monica's Wellbeing Project and "how a public policy framework might address some of the challenges presented by the panelists," officials said.

The event will take place at 7 p.m. at the Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center on Santa Monica Boulevard at 11th Street.

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