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Mathematics Of Serial Killers


Researchers found that behavior of serial killers may adhere to a pretty strict mathematical formula called the “Devil’s Staircase” – serial killers work to a ‘rhythm’ driven by neurons in their brains, suggesting that police could someday predict when another strike could occur.

Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury, electrical engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, modeled the behavior of Andrei Chikatilo, “The Butcher of Rostov,” who was one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history. Between 1978 and 1990 in the Ukraine, he committed at least 52 murders before he was caught, tried and executed. The pattern of his murders was irregular. There were long periods of no activity, interrupted by several murders within a short period of time.

What the authors used as the basis of their analysis was the hypothesis that “similar to epileptic seizures, the psychotic affects, causing a serial killer to commit murder, arise from simultaneous firing of large number of neurons in the brain.” Accordingly, they based their model on neuronal firing – the fact that, once a neuron fires, there’s a refractory period that has to pass before it can fire again. When it does fire, it can trigger other neurons to fire if they’re ready to. As you can imagine, though, those firings aren’t always in sync. So what the authors suggest is that there must be a threshold – that is, when a certain number of neurons fire, the serial killer becomes driven by an overwhelming urge to kill.

Killers are more likely to strike again directly after a murder, and their ‘murder probability’ falls during long quiet periods — but it adheres to a broadly predictable pattern of killings.
The researchers think that the neural impulse to kill overwhelms the killer even after the ‘sedative’ effect of killing — leading to ‘bursts’ of murderous activity.

The authors also note that the murders do appear in clumps, with the killer more likely to kill after another murder. However, the killings eventually have a sedative effect, pushing the neuronal activity below the ‘killing threshold’ – which is why there are large intervals of time between groups of murders.

“We cannot expect that the killer commits murder right at the moment when neural excitation reaches a certain threshold. He needs time to plan and prepare his crime.”

The researchers acknowledge that prediction measurements need to be refined, but in doing so, they believe it could improve prediction capabilities for law enforcement tracking serial killers.

-articles by Alex Knapp and Liz Klimas rewritten and adapted by admin-


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5 Comments to “Mathematics Of Serial Killers”
  1. Barrie J. Ritter, Ph.D. says:

    “We cannot expect that the killer commits murder right at the moment when neural excitation reaches a certain threshold. He needs time to plan and prepare his crime.” –
    >> He needs time to plan and prepare his crime.” >> Exactly, which is why the authors’ hypothesis makes no sense. Their timing of killings is also contrary to the facts of many cases.
    Barrie Ritter, Ph.D.

  2. Satan says:

    I think I might be the next to get on a killing spree

  3. NEBULOSO says:

    Excellent website! Your site is very clean and well designed (though every time I’ve designed a site using white text with black or dark colors, I always get railed by my instructors).

    I’m a graphic designer/animator/illustrator, and I’ve always had an interest in the morbid and psychotic, mostly serial/mass/spree killers, as I’m taking a lot of psyche classes for my Humanity generals.

  4. Whenever I rose up this early morning I suspected that I would get a hold of a web page article like this that really makes me think.

    • admin says:

      Hey Herminia, thank you very much for your comment, I am glad you found that article interesting. I hope you stop by more often 🙂

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