New Research On Possible Sources Of Psychopathy Brain Abnormalities

New Research On Possible Sources Of Psychopathy Brain Abnormalities August 4, 2009

Science Daily reports:

Earlier studies had suggested that dysfunction of specific brain regions might underpin psychopathy. Such areas of the brain were identified as the amygdale, ie the area associated with emotions, fear and aggression, and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the region which deals with decision making. There is a white matter tract that connects the amygdala and OFC, which is called the uncinate fasciculus (UF). However, nobody had ever studied the UF in psychopaths. The team from King’s used an imaging method called in vivo diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DT-MRI) tractography to analyse the UF in psychopaths.

They found a significant reduction in the integrity of the small particles that make up the structure of the UF of psychopaths, compared to control groups of people with the same age and IQ. Also, the degree of abnormality was significantly related to the degree of psychopathy. These results suggest that psychopaths have biological differences in the brain which may help to explain their offending behaviours.

In the past whenever I’ve read about the differences in psychopaths’ brains, I’ve always just focused on the question of what it means for revealing the normal morality-ready character of normal brains by contrast or what it means for how we assess the culpability of people with different brain structures or how this all relates to Dexter.  But tonight, this line from the article above struck me:

exciting developments in brain imaging such as DT-MRI now offer neuroscientists the potential to move towards a more coherent understanding of the possible brain networks that underlie psychopathy, and potentially towards treatments for this mental disorder.’

Wouldn’t it be amazing if they could cure psychopathy?  I’m kind of embarrassed about my previous lack of imagination that only thought of this in terms of what it said about people being fated to be killers, rather than possibly freed not to be based on our increasing knowledge and mastery of our brains.

I take it we’re a long way off, but it’s exciting to dream and worthwhile to be grateful to the science and technology that make our dreams something more than dreams—hopes.

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