Volume 50, Issue 6 (November 2005)
Some Thoughts on the Neurobiology of Stalking
The authors examine the crime of stalking, including the cognitive traits, emotional reactions, attachment pathology, violence patterns and sex differences of samples of stalking offenders. They focus on two common types of stalkers: 1) those who sustain pursuit of a former sexual intimate who has rejected them; and 2) those who pursue a stranger or acquaintance who has failed to return the stalker's romantic overtures. The authors discuss data from neuroimaging (fMRI) studies of romantic love which suggest that these forms of stalking may be associated with heightened activity of subcortical dopaminergic pathways of the "Reward System" of the brain, perhaps in combination with low activity of central serotonin. The authors propose that this set of neural correlates may contribute to the stalker's focused attention, increased energy, following behaviors, obsessive thinking about and impulsivity directed toward the victim. To further explore the neural systems associated with stalking behavior, they also discuss several biopsychological phenomena associated with romantic rejection, including the "protest response," "frustration attraction," "abandonment rage" and "mate guarding." They illustrate the parallels between stalking and addiction. They conclude that stalking may be associated with a specific set of biological components and they offer suggestions for further research into this pathological emotional/motivational state.