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A Psychopath’s Brain Is Different

A Psychopaths Brain Is Different Researchers have learned that a psychopaths brain structure is significantly different from others. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers discovered the variance studying images of prisoners’ brains.

The results could help explain the callous and impulsive anti-social behavior exhibited by some psychopaths.

The study showed that psychopaths have reduced connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), the part of the brain responsible for sentiments such as empathy and guilt, and the amygdala, which reconciles fear and anxiety.

Structural changes in the brain were confirmed using two different types of brain images.

Diffusion tensor images (DTI) showed reduced structural integrity in the white matter fibers connecting the two areas, while a second type of image that maps brain activity, a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI), showed less coordinated activity between the vmPFC and the amygdala.

“This is the first study to show both structural and functional differences in the brains of people diagnosed with psychopathy,” says Michael Koenigs.

“Those two structures in the brain, which are believed to regulate emotion and social behavior, seem to not be communicating as they should.”

Investigators compared the brains of 20 prisoners with a diagnosis of psychopathy with the brains of 20 other prisoners who committed similar crimes but were not diagnosed with psychopathy.

“The combination of structural and functional abnormalities provides compelling evidence that the dysfunction observed in this crucial social-emotional circuitry is a stable characteristic of our psychopathic offenders,” Newman says.
“I am optimistic that our ongoing collaborative work will shed more light on the source of this dysfunction and strategies for treating the problem.”

The study, published in the most recent Journal of Neuroscience, builds on earlier work by Newman and Koenigs that showed that psychopaths’ decision-making mirrors that of patients with known damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC).

This bolsters evidence that problems in that part of the brain are connected to the disorder.

“The decision-making study showed indirectly what this study shows directly – that there is a specific brain abnormality associated with criminal psychopathy,” Koenigs adds.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

A Psychopath’s Brain Is Different

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). A Psychopath’s Brain Is Different. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/11/25/a-psychopaths-brain-is-different/31866.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.