Study of Stephen Paddock's Brain May Provide More Clues

The brain of Stephen Paddock, the domestic terrorist that killed 58 people before committing suicide in Las Vegas earlier this month, will soon be studied and compared with past mass killers as leaders in the medical field attempt to find links between the people behind the plaguing atrocities.

Dr. Hannes Vogel, director of neuropathology at Stanford University Medical Center, expects the brain to arrive to his laboratory next week. Vogel told the New York Times that his search for a potential brain disorder will, if a link is found, be able to stand next to evidence gathered by law enforcement.

"The magnitude of this tragedy has so many people wondering how it could have evolved," Vogel told the paper. "All these speculations out there will be put to rest, I think."

Vogel added that the chances of finding answers in the brain tissue to the mystery of Paddock's act are slim he is hopeful that any one of more than a half-dozen neurological diseases proposed might have played a role in the tragic, but as-yet unmotivated, incident.

Vogel is one of a select few academic neuropathologists to be focusing his efforts on forensics, and added that he planned to look for and photograph any gross abnormalities, such as a tumor or malformation, that could be felt or seen by the naked eye without magnification.

The next step in the process for Vogel will be to focus on interior structure of Paddock's brain. According to the report in the New York Times, Vogel was briefed about the condition of the brain, which included details about the damage caused by the self-inflicted bullet wound to his head. There is obvious concern that the injury may, potentially, compromise the assessment of the brain.

Vogel said that he is likely to dissect the sample further by cutting vertically from the top with a cutline that goes from ear to ear. He will then take the samples of the tissue, provide them to colleagues who will slice-then-mount them onto slides to study them for any potential abnormalities within the individual cells.

"I think for a lot of things people are speculating about, it's still quite usable," Vogel said. "Pending viewing it."

Vogel has studied 129 brains over the last five years -- not all cases involved homicide or mass shootings -- but many were involved in cases of some malfeasance.

The shooting happened in the late hours of Oct. 1, during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. Paddock fired from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, across from the concert venue, and killed 58 people while injuring nearly 500 others.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said 10-days later, on Oct. 11, that Paddock's brain showed no abnormalities in the autopsy.

The medical community has speculated that Paddock may have been suffering a disease known as fronto-temporal lobar degeneration that affects areas of the brain that are central to 'executive functions' like decision-making and social interaction.

Vogel said that did not believe that Paddock identified for that.

"These people are notoriously prone to errors in judgment and unrestrained behavior," Vogel said. "People will say in the same breath that this guy was so meticulous in planning and so forth, that that would seem unlikely."

He also said that while he is supremely interested in this process, that early returns have not been promising.


"I think everybody is pretty doubtful that we're going to come up with something," Vogel told the New York Times. "The possibilities, neuropathologically, for explaining this kind of behavior are very few."

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