March 16, 2004
Brain Scans Show Abnormalities In Psychopaths

A USC professor used MRI brain scans, a battery of cognitive function tests, and criminal histories to compare normal people with psychopaths and also to compare psychopaths who manage to avoid getting caught with psychopaths who get arrested for committing crimes.

Adrian Raine, a professor of psychology and neuroscience in the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, focused his research on two parts of the brain: the hippocampus, a portion of the temporal lobe that regulates aggression and transfers information into memory; and the corpus callosum, a bridge of nerve fibers that connects the cerebral hemispheres.

One type of psychopath is adept at avoiding getting caught committing crimes but another type is not.

To explore the physical roots to psychopathic behavior, Raine and his colleagues recruited 91 men from Los Angeles’ temporary employment pool and gave them a battery of tests to assess cognitive ability, information processing skills and criminal history. They also were given MRIs, or brain scans.

In the study of the hippocampus, the research team expanded the scope of previous studies by comparing the brains of two groups for the first time: “successful” psychopaths - those who had committed crimes but had never been caught - and “unsuccessful” psychopaths - those who had been caught.

The hippocampus plays a critical role in regulating aggression and in learning which situations one should be afraid of - a process called contextual fear conditioning.

With psychopaths, contextual fear conditioning plays a part in learning the concept of what to do and what not to do, Raine said. It has been theorized that the disruption of the circuit linking the hippocampus with the prefrontal cortex could contribute to the impulsiveness, lack of control and emotional abnormalities observed in psychopaths.

“It is learning what is right and what is wrong in a certain situation,” he said.

The difference between successful psychopaths (those who avoid getting arrested) and unsuccessful psychopaths is that the more successful ones have a greater ability to learn fear of getting caught and to therefore guide their own behavior to minimize the chances of getting caught.

He tested the theory that psychopaths with hippocampal impairments could become insensitive to cues that predicted punishment and capture. As a result, he said, these “impaired’ psychopaths were more likely to be apprehended than psychopaths without that deficit.

Fewer than half of both the control subjects and the “successful” psychopaths had an asymmetrical hippocampus.

Ninety-four percent of the unsuccessful psychopaths had that same abnormality, with the right side of the hippocampus larger than the left.

The successful and unsuccessful psychopaths share in common a different form of faulty brain wiring that causes them to lack empathy and consideration for other people.

These findings were bolstered by the results of the second study, which focused on the corpus callosum.

The corpus callosum is a bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, enabling them to work together to process information and regulate autonomic function. Raine explored its role in psychopathy for the first time.

“There’s faulty wiring going on in psychopaths. They’re wired differently than other people,” Raine said. “In a way, it’s literally true in this case.”

He found that the psychopaths’ corpus callosums were an average of 23 percent larger and 7 percent longer than the control groups’.

“The corpus callosum is bigger, but it’s also thinner. That suggests that it developed abnormally,” Raine said.

The rate that the psychopaths transmitted information from one hemisphere to the other through the corpus callosum also was abnormally high, Raine said.

But that didn’t mean things worked better.

With an increased corpus callosum came less remorse, fewer emotions and less social connectedness - the classic hallmarks of a psychopath, he said.

“These people don’t react. They don’t care,” Raine said. “Why that occurs, we don’t fully know, but we are beginning to get important clues from neuro-imaging research.”

When it comes possible to diagnose psychopaths should they be placed under greater sustained law enforcement scrutiny? The better adapted psychopaths who feel a great deal of fear of getting caught are currently getting away with many crimes. If we can identify who they are should they be treated differently?

Also, if a psychopath can be diagnosed in advance as extremely dangerous should it be permitted to lock such a person up in an institution before they rape or kill or do other harm to people? What if a person could be identified as a psychopath at the age of 14? Should such a person be removed from normal society?

Suppose it became possible to treat the brains of psychopaths to cause them to have greater empathy, greater remorse, and less impulsiveness. Should the government have the power to compel psychopaths to accept treatment that will change the wiring of their brains?

Also, if there is a genetic basis for psychopathy and it becomes possible to test for it then should people who have the genetic variations for psychopathic brain wiring be allowed to reproduce? Should they be allowed to reproduce if only they submit to genetic engineering of their developing offspring?

I predict that most of these hypothetical questions will become real questions that will be debated in many countries around the world. I also predict that most populations will support either preemptive restraint of psychopaths or forced treatment to change the brains of psychopaths to make them less dangerous.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 March 16 03:04 PM  Brain Society

A Berman said at March 16, 2004 3:24 PM:

People forget the reverse case: That your actions have an affect on your brain. Perhaps years of making poor choices reinforce and build unhealthy brain structures. Perhaps better education and kinder parenting also has an effect on your brain structures.

The brain is a physical object. Thoughts and memories have physical manifestation. We should not be so surprised when we keep reading about physical manifestations of behaviors. Does that really have an affect on our moral judgements?

Stefan Jones said at March 16, 2004 3:54 PM:

"Perhaps better education and kinder parenting . . ."

Don't forget good nutrition, and an environment free of lead paint chips and diesel fumes. And a Mom who didn't drink during pregnancy.

Randall Parker said at March 16, 2004 4:09 PM:

Andy, Yes, environment matters. But once someone is a psychopath what to do about it? No one has a talk therapy that will cure psychopathy.

Also, psychopathic tendencies show up early. Once the brain is so shaped that it is psychopathic what to do about it?

Stefan, I agree that nutrition and other physical environment factos matter as well. How much choline mom ate during pregnancy also matters. But, again, once the brain is psychopathic and the person is a threat to society what to do about it?

Also, if we can know that a person is developing in a psychopathic direction at the age of, say, 2 or 8 or 12 and there is a medical treatment that will alter brain development should it be administered?

CB said at March 16, 2004 4:32 PM:

If someone's own actions (and the response from their environment) "shapes" their brain, then what is their moral culpability for criminal and psychopathic actions after their brain has been set in this way?

Stefan Jones said at March 16, 2004 5:00 PM:

"What to do about it . . ."

Oh yeah. What we've got here is a really, really, big and firmly packed can of worms.

Worms with nasty teeth and a bad smell that won't be easily ignored.

All the denial by conservatives wanting to be able to hold individuals accountable in their lovably stern and clueless way, and liberals wanting to find excuses in societal and environmental factors in their endearingly flaky way, won't make the can go away.

Based on our past experience with dealing with uncomfortable biological facts, I don't see a good outcome any time soon. Consider evolution: On one hand it was misinterpreted by ideologues for political purposes (Social Darwinism); on the other, we have people in deep denial who are still doing the damndnest to remove it from school textbooks.

More to the point: We have an awful hard time, right now, making people on the margins take their meds, be they antipsychotic or for TB. Imagine trying to keep one of these manipulative smart psychopaths medicated.

A Berman said at March 17, 2004 8:23 AM:

Randall, Stefan, CB, you all make great points. I agree that the question is very unsettled. Let's keep in mind that people have suffered head injuries followed by behavioral changes since the dawn of Man, so at some level, this is not an entirely new concept.

I will say, to CB, that traditional Western morality has no problem punishing people for becoming accustomed to criminality. It is our responsibility to not become accustomed to it. That our acclimation to one behavior or another has a physical manifestation is not completely exculpatory. Even someone born with a psychopathic brain to a horrendous family has, at some reduced level, choices he or she can make. The necessities of running a civilization take precedence, however. In Judaism, God is given the power of final complete judgement, and we are empowered to maintain our laws as we see fit. Christians also talk about Original Sin and forgiveness, while still being able to throw the switch on the electric chair, even after "forgiving" someone for their sins. I don't know much about Greek philosophy on this subject, but I'm sure Plato thought of this.

Here's a question: You have two people, both psychopathic murderers. The first was born with that predisposition hard-wired. The second was Ghandi's identical twin, but was raised by followers of Osama Bin Laden. Whom is more responsible for their murders? Does it make a difference?

Randall Parker said at March 17, 2004 10:36 AM:

Andy, The extent to which we have free choice varies. Look at the head-bangers in mental hospitals or the people who have various other obsessive compulsive disorders. Do they have free will?

As for your question: I see no evidence that psychopathy is learned. That is just the point. If it really is caused by how the brain grows (either due to genetics or biochemical environment in the womb) then Gandhi's brother wouldn't be a psychopath (not that I buy the whole Western idea of Gandhi as a saint anyway).

Patrick said at March 17, 2004 10:56 PM:

The cause and effect bit here is still a bit vague. It's like finding that someone who likes to play sport is more muscular than someone who doesn't. Now does playing sport cause muscle growth, or does natural strength lead one to be better at sport, and so enjoy it more? You can't really tell just by measuring the muscles of sports players.

This also applies to the differences in "the gay brain".

T. J. Madison said at March 18, 2004 8:13 AM:

Before we go labelling people as "psychopathic deviants", we need to remember the results of the Milgram experiment. >60% of the population is willing to torture to death a random stranger if asked to do so by an authority figure.

Maybe these some of these "psychopaths" aren't more "evil" than normal. Perhaps they just have higher initiative and self-motivation.

T.J.Green said at March 20, 2004 4:19 PM:

Schizophrenia is a mutation that evolved 60,000 years ago,it gave us language. Psychopathy is part of this schizotypal link, and therefore must be part of our language development. Psychopaths process language in both hemispheres of the brain,not just the right side. I feel we should have a global registration of psychopaths. Also we must be democratic. Psychopathic leaders do tremendous damage.Saddam Hussein is our most recent example. Perhaps if we could control this damaging part of our species,then we could put more of our resources in to the advancement of our species.

Rakhiir said at March 22, 2004 12:33 PM:

I think this could be the most important science news of the year. The implications are profound, on several fronts. To me the most exciting aspect of this story is the statement that psychopaths’ corpus callosums were bigger and worked faster. In other words, their minds were more unified. Could the origin of empathy be our internal struggle to deal with our left-brain/right-brain duality?

My essay on my blog is here.


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Max said at August 3, 2004 5:48 PM:

Fascinating. I'd like to know what psychopaths excell at. Perhaps they can be put to good use by society.

I also predict that if we found out who all psychopaths in the world were, there would be quite a few surprises. People expect infamous baddies like Saddam Hussein to pop up, but I bet many people who have world renown as philanthropists are in fact psychopaths - extremely well-hidden and well-adepted ones.

bill said at September 1, 2004 10:18 AM:

I have found out that I have the characterists of a psychopath. I am one of the 'wired differently" smooth talking, hard selling. many talents, 4 marriages, very easiy bored, can tell biggest lies with great drama,con man, and wife beater who has beat the system, so far. I was even arrested for wife beating, but blamed my wife as the culprit and the charges were dropped!

My question is there support groups for controlling this, how does one who wants change cope? are we monsters? Should I eliminate myself? Is there more helpful information or studies? This chaos in my life has to stop.

One answer Max, I have a very,very creative mind, lying and manipulating spurns creative ideas in me. I am now CEO of a small publishing co. Ideas flow daily!

(P.S I even manipulated my therapists)

Joshua Allen said at March 13, 2005 1:34 AM:

Rakhiir, Madison:

I agree that this lack of remorse, empathy is the result of a too-effective corpus callosum; the ability to rationalize things becomes just too great. One can rationalize anything, given enough time -- the psychopaths are just quicker, and can flit to rationalization to rationalization.

Kim Howatt said at February 2, 2006 5:37 PM:

Hi All:

As a mother of a soon-to-be psychopath (he is not 18 yrs old yet), I am glad that there is new research indicating that not all parents are to blame for psychopath's behaviour. I ate nutritionally and took good care of my child inside and outside of me. I provided the same quality of life, free from abuse just as I did for my other child. The only difference between the 2 boys is their genetics. They have different fathers with 2 totally differnt backgrounds.

My question is: Has anyone scanned newborns and follwed them through to adulthood?

Kim Howatt

Megan said at March 7, 2006 5:21 PM:

My question is ... could psychopaths be locked in instututions even if they haven't committed a crime? We all know they are a threat to our society so would it not be right to prevent them from doing any harm???

kevin said at April 1, 2006 1:22 PM:

i have ? for u guys why do u not have pics on here u need pics og parts of the brain cause i knida of need them by tomorrow plzzz

Jennifer said at December 3, 2006 2:52 PM:

I find this article and the comments very interesting. I am pleased that research is looking more closely at possible congenital defects as a cause for mental illness. I recently saw a program on TV dealing with the effects of chronic fear (such as in severe child abuse and neglect or satanic ritual abuse) on the brain. I was wondering if anyone had any information about the possibility of early fears being related to the changes in the hippocampus and corpus callosum that are seen in psychopaths? And, if so, at what age would this most likely occur? In other words, is it possible, that rather than a congenital defect the damage occurred early in life due to sustained abuse and/or fear?

lynda said at March 25, 2007 11:59 AM:

I would like to see a nationwide survey of families who have one, or more, antisocial relatives. I bet almost every family in America would have at least one. Someone told me that half the people in the world are bad and half the people are good. She was not studied on antisocial behavior. There are lots of people who are like this >>>
With an increased corpus callosum came less remorse, fewer emotions and less social connectedness - the classic hallmarks of a psychopath, he said. “These people don’t react. They don’t care,” Raine said. I don't really know anyone who doesn't exhibit these traits. That is a sad commentary. I notice it. They don't.

lea said at March 25, 2007 12:03 PM:

Oh ps. If someone hasn't done anything wrong, nothing should be done. If they do not want anything to change their brains, then they shouldn't. It is a big deal, and an intricate process. I would not want someone messing with my brain. What if they invented something that would make them more empathetic, but caused them great pain? Their former reality would be destroyed. You shouldn't mess with other people like that.

GP said at March 3, 2008 1:04 PM:

Doing something wrong vs being convicted in a court of law. They are very different things. Psychopaths are compulsive and audacious liars. They believe they can get away with anything and usually do. Growing up with one I found that when confronted with having comitted an act of cruelty for example, the response was inevitably-"Prove it. You can't. You see you're accusing me of something you can't prove. How dare you,it didn't happen. What's wrong with you!" These people do wrong all the time but it is only their victims who know what is happening. When they try to tell others they are not believed. The psychopath may have already spread numerous lies discrediting the victim or will claim that no such thing happened and the victim must be mentally unbalanced and imagining things or is over sensitive and blowing it all out of proportion. This person (4.5 years older)tried to cook me in the oven, suffocate me in my bed and thew me over a wall fracturing my skull before she was 9 years old. She knew she was different and told me she was an alien because she didn't feel like the rest of us. I have been befriended, manipulated, deceived and betrayed over and over again.I am not stupid but it took me 42 years to understand what was going on. Thanks to I had tried so hard to be reasonable and understanding that I had believed her lies and blamed myself. Do you really think you would recognise one after just a brief meeting or aquaintance? They can be charming, friendly, smiling, appear to be listening and interested, say all the right things but it is all an act, a mask that is worn to appear normal. This person is working as a nurse in a GPs practice. She has also worked in hospitals with responsibility for patients and students. She has told me that her patients tell her what a lovely person she is. I know how potentially dangerous and psychologically destructive she is but can do nothing about it,I can't prove it. At the very least all public servants and politicians should be screened as a condition of employment. All identified psychopaths should be removed from society until a FOOL-PROOF treatment is found.

marree said at August 8, 2009 5:25 PM:

I am near the end of a very long journey with psychotherapy, to undo the effects of my psychopathic mum on me.
I wonder if people in the future will think twice before accepting a known psychopath as a patner, and bear their children? My mum was not able to love me from birth. Without that trigger of love for me, I was not able to give love to her, myself or others. I knew only dependence, and felt only depression. How many depressed people are out their now suffering the same fate; with the same cause, and destined to repeat history?

marree said at August 8, 2009 8:57 PM:

.....Given the choice to repeat my life; even though I now have emotional freedom, I would NOT want to go through it again. If my mother was aborted because their was proof she was a psychopath, justice would be done.

Dana said at October 7, 2009 5:29 PM:

I am somewhat relieved at this information. My mother, father and brother could not figure out why I was so different. My brother was raised in similar fashion and both of my parents are what you call caring, loving and affectionate. I do not care for them much or anyone for that matter, however, I hide well in society. Only a select group of like-minded individuals know my true nature and secrets; my survival in the fearful society depends on the darkness within the shadow in which I keep my true self hidden, away from prying eyes.

To lock up scientifically identified psychopaths is equivalent to the Japanese internment camps of the Second World War – wholly ridiculous to force someone into a camp (in the case of psychopaths, jail or a mental institution) for something they could not control and had the “potential” to do harm. Should we lock up people with alcoholism to prevent them from entering a car and killing/harming someone else? Of course not, I find that rhetoric to be wholly repulsive. The laws of nature dictate that everyone is born into this world free, and that individuals are to live in complete liberty.

I live in a world of nature’s laws rather than the tainted, ambiguous and arbitrary laws of man. The laws of man hold no weight in the natural world, and regardless of what anyone thinks humans are in fact apart of that world. It is the survival of the fittest. If psychopaths know how to or are able to disregard emotional binding thoughts or feelings, societal morality, norms and most importantly, the ability to cast away fear and doubt; then, ladies and gentlemen, then psychopaths are the most fit to endure and survive nature’s beastly aggressions and tribulations.

People who are soft, empathetic (the word “pathetic” lies within, hence its usefulness in nature), emotionally driven, from my observations and experience, are the people who fall behind first or die first. They do not have what it takes in a situation that calls for rational thought, amoral and decisive actions because they are bound to the morals of their beliefs - what they were taught as children and adults. This weakens them greatly; therefore are easier to attack and neutralize.

Predators see this and exploit it, and it is the predators in nature that win and live another day. There is one reason why in war psychopaths are the ones that survive because it is they who are fit for survival. War will not go away anytime soon nor will crimes or the corruptness of humanity. In the end, no matter what situation, it is futile to try and tame the psychopaths. They might be the con-man swindling you out of money or they might be the person who murders the lesser of society (individuals “normal” people are afraid to admit they do not care for in the slightest). Or the psychopath might be the one that takes out a terrorist on some foreign land because they had no fear or sense of morality to eliminate that person. It is impossible to stop the immovable, unemotional and ultimately, the self-assured indestructible nature of a psychopath.

Hate us if you will, keep your fears alive and well. Are your palms sweaty yet – the thought that you might be looking at a psychopath, waving at you from across the hedges next door, a big and bright smile across their face? We know when and how to smile and how to make you laugh. We know how to have a good time and enjoy the company of others, at least on the outside. The only difference between us and everyone else is that we do not fear anything or anyone. We live in complete freedom – free from the age old morals and beliefs developed by weaker men and women of their time. Do we wish we were different? At times and only for our own comfort in life – it would be nice to find a better way to blend in. Accept us for who we are because we accept you or do we?

Pete said at January 5, 2010 11:06 PM:

It would be immoral and short-sighted to treat people differently based solely on brain scans.
Lying, cheating, and manipulating, aren't illegal, and if we start taking rights away from people who haven't been convicted of breaking the law, we're setting a very dangerous precedent.

No matter how likely a person is to commit a crime, if they haven't, they don't deserve to be locked up. Period. The end.
Risk factor is not the same as conviction, nor should it be.

Dana, you're a delusional fool. Psychopaths make terrible soldiers, because they're undisciplined and foolhardy. They get themselves and their units killed, and they're quick to desert if they think they're in real danger.
The lack of fear is a liability, and so is the mistaken notion that psychopaths are the only humans capable of resorting to logic in place of emotion. The unfortunate truth for both psychopaths and normals is that psychopathic logic is almost always flawed, due to lapses in judgment inherent to their lack of appropriate fear. It's like trying to play chess without any intuitive knowledge of the enemy's threats. That's why their business schemes fail, most are jobless, they have no realistic long-term goals, etc. They're usually only good for quick, one or two shot scams or petty heists. Some are able to get ahead through bullying and social manipulation, but the only prerequisite for doing that is being willing, and it requires less logic than planning a decent budget. Perhaps not coincidentally, psychopaths are quite terrible at handling their finances.

You're living in a dream world if you think psychopaths are something to be admired or romanticized.
They're a danger to themselves and to others, and they rarely amount to anything, living in a house of cards they imagine to be a castle.
If you ask me, that's quite inferior to being empathetic. Two letters inferior.

That being said, I accept you for who you are, and I've got no problems with you. If you screw with me or anyone I care about, then I'll make your life hell.
It's really that simple.
Live and let live.

D_F said at January 21, 2010 6:01 PM:

Pete, I don't think Dana was suggesting psychopaths make good soldiers as part of a unit, I think she was suggesting they might find it easier to kill a person who needs to be killed. Not all psychopaths are complete failures either; although the average psychopath would find a standard job/career/occupation unstimulating and therefore to hold down, through persuading others to do the daily grind, smooth talking, etc. many do find success. In fact to think this isn't the case is ridiculous and even laughable - look at our society! Look at our economy!

I personally find the idea of forcibly imprisoning and abusing the most basic human rights of an individual by violating their psysical rights through forced treatment because their brain is wired differently absolutely disgusting. To put it into exact terms, it stinks of Nazi ideology. Yes, I'm British, and here, we don't pretend the hollocaust didn't happen.

Sorry to say it, but this isn't a case of right and wrong. Society wants rid of psychopaths, psychopaths feel constrained by society. This could easily turn into a "war on psychopathy" but let's face it, "right and wrong" would be little more than a propoganda tool here. Society would be functioning with a psychopathic level of morality (with this sort of breach of human rights) while expecting its citizens to uphold both personal morality and compliance to a wider ideal which should realisticaly make anyone with half a moral bone in their body sick.

As for which psychopath is to blame, an animal cannot help being an animal. We accept animals, - we don't try to pacify nature - (anyone planning to pull the teeth out of great white sharks?) so what possible humane excuse could we have to do so to the human animal, in any of its shapes and forms? And the psychopath created through bad parenting is no more to blame as they are a product of their circumstances. We are the only species often more cruel to its own kind than to others. So you are afraid of being hurt - vote as you will, but don't dare to be so *pathetic* as to claim you are doing so in the name of good or right.

What's more, stepping outside of our box, our world and our values are a social construct not an absolute truth whereas we can be pretty sure nature is nature, and psychopaths are either a product of nature, or society or of a combination of both. If they are a product of society, should it be our society which we should really be deeming "sick"? If they are a product of nature, as this study aims to conclude, who are we, as a society to "play God"?

For those of you who are religious, how could you possibly consider such an action? For those of you who are not, and simply wish to ensure your own survival, you are simply making the best efforts you can to be the fittest. For those willing to pretend you have reasons other than personal gain, think again and ask yourself whether you want to get under that MRI anytime.

Psychopaths are a threat to those less survivally fit, therefore, for normals to achieve evolutionary fitness, they must be eliminated. However, in the society we live in today, despite what the tabloids might seem to project, violence and crime is amazingly low (in other words compliance amazingly high) in contrast to what you might find in a natural situation, and it is not fear, but group dominance which motivates this sorts of action.

In other words, it is eat or be eaten, and interestingly, if anti-psychopath strategies come into place, though psychopaths may well be fitter for survival in natural terms, it looks like "normals" clearly have the upper hand in terms of fitness to survive *within* our society, yet are still bent on eliminating psychopaths.

hannibal lecter said at February 7, 2010 12:02 PM:

While you were all talking I was making recipe for your hearts and livers.

I think I would wear a few of your skins with my wiener tucked in so I could look like a woman.

Sam Thorn said at April 14, 2010 5:53 PM:

Here's a weird theory. What if psychopaths have brains which, rather than under-acting, that is, forming the ability to fear, instead are over-acting, that is, counter-acting/burying the ability to fear (and emote in other ways)? What if this excess activity, if curbed, would render them normal (though whether such would be possible past any given point is unknown)?

Denise said at June 27, 2010 11:12 AM:

I know someone who was dropped on his head as an infant. No one else in his family exhibits psychopathic behavior. He lacks empathy and remorse, and has no close relationships with anyone. He is incapable of feelings that other people have, and yet he is extremely charming, which lures in the next victim. When one gets to know him it becomes obvious that something is not wired correctly. When trying to have a conversation there is no response to logic; there is no outcome, and everything is centered around him. It is truly sad, both for his victims and, for him. Psychopaths that do not display outward characteritics of a criminal personality are extremely cunning and able to elude law enforcement due to their charm, which they display as an act, because in reality they do not possess those traits. The clue to a true psychopath is their inability to understand the word "no", and they absolutely will, with all determination, seek to acquire that which they cannot have under normal circumstances, or with any civility toward other people. Because they are chameleon-like, it is very hard to detect them, almost until it is too late. In my opinion, it is almost a form of true evil, and perhaps in many of them, it actually is just evil!

Marycar said at July 8, 2010 7:58 PM:

Interesting blog. Many jumped to the conclusion that, if a psychopath can be identified, maybe he should be locked up before he hurts someone. Others pointed out how unfail (and against the US constitution) this would be. However, that is exactly what Kansas and several other states are doing rigtht now, and the US Supreme court has said its OK. For sex offenders, the authorities give them various tests AFTER they have served their time (usually 15 to 25 years) and if the offender does not pass the specific test, they are civilly committed. This went to the Supreme court, which said, "Well, this isn't double jeopardy since the detention was criminal and the life time detention is civil." This is in order to prevent future crimes. The testing is different from state to state, and even from time period to time period, or from localitly, or even just to suit the preference of prosecutors. Much of this testing has been declared by scientists to be inaccurate. But, nevertheless, its what is being done, more and more. I have read that this is how Hitler began.

Anonymous said at July 27, 2010 8:55 AM:

to Pete, are you married? :) I have been living a nightmare of sorts trying to figure out a former partner who I believe to be a psychopath. He is certainly a Jekyll & Hyde personality. He has been very abusive in our relationship, mostly emotional and psychological abuse. Even more disturbing is this happens with his children and I have witnessed physical abuse with his oldest son, as well. His first wife and I have both been trying to get help for the children, we do not want this cycle to continue. It is very hard, especially given that this man is IN LAW ENFORCEMENT! I did not marry him, but I am still having a hard time moving on with what used to be "my life". It has taken a lot of work to understand how I got to be where I am and I am determined to do as much as I can to help others to protect children from witnessing abuse and to help society deal with these issues. We owe it to each other to bring these patterns out of the dark and deal with them in the most mutually beneficial way. Otherwise, we will continue to have generations of abused becoming abusers. It is very hard to get away from the grasp of a manipulator.

Anonymous said at September 8, 2010 9:49 PM:

to Anonymous said at July 27, 2010 8:55 AM: I'm sure you will find a lot of psychopaths in law enforcement and law creation. Psychopaths are attracted to power and you will find the smart ones on the "right" side of the law. Criminal psychopaths are failed psychopaths and much more rare than the ones who appear to be following the law, and in many cases, they are MAKING the law. Read Political Ponerology by Andrew M. Lobaczewski. It's a fascinating read on psychopathy and how a certain hereditary anomaly, "essential psychopathy” is catalytically and causatively essential for the genesis and survival of large scale social evil.

Mask of Sanity said at February 22, 2011 4:44 PM:

there are probably lots of psychopaths in law, politics, religion, and psychology. remember that current definitions are based on prison populations, i.e. criminal tendencies are inherent - whereas a lot of the neurophysiology talked about here is about how psychopaths think; if you say they should all be locked up before committing a crime then it is you who is the evil one.

The language used in the article is a disgrace - "faulty brain wiring" lol how is it faulty if communication is better? Welcome to neurodiversity people! Not everyone thinks the same way, and evolution and game theory can explain a small % of the population being psychopathic. There is no evidence that it is unnatural or 'faulty' and if I had emotions such language would annoy me :p

Annunaki Slayer said at April 1, 2011 4:37 AM:

@Mask of Sanity - faster/more frequent signal transmission between the hemispheres via the corpus callosum does not imply that communication within the brain is "better". Rather, it is a marker of how the brain of a psychopath develops differently so that we can identify them and (hopefully) put them all to death like they deserve. The corpus callosum of a psychopath develops differently and transmits more frequent back and forth between the hemispheres because of differences in the way that psychopaths process information in general. These differences can mostly be understood as resulting from the fact that psychopaths do not associate different pieces of information according to their semantic meaning. This results in any sort of processing being painfully energy-consuming for the psychopath. It is like their brains lack the basic system of organization that allows healthy people to function in the world without lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, killing and doing other things for which all psychopaths should be killed. A psychopath's brain is like a library with books thrown all over the floor and stuffed wantonly into corners, a big mess with no system of organization whatsoever. Makes it pretty difficult to find the book you need when you need it. In a person whose brain actually WORKS, you have the emotional functions of the limbic system to guide you as to which books go where, and it happens automatically. The brains of psychopaths are inherently inferior, despite how good they often are at faking intelligence. They are basically defective, internally stumbling wolves in sheeps clothing who never do anything good for the world that couldn't be done better by an empath. The recent economic troubles of the world, as well as most of the wars in history, can be attributed to the so-called "successful" psychopaths. The world will be a better place after we wise up and exterminate them. They are not human and it will not be genocide.

btw you are a narcissistic fool and not a psychopath. Psychopaths never admit it, not even implicitly, especially not in the context of defending their intelligence to a bunch of strangers on the internet. To do so is unproductive and very boring for anyone who isn't concerned with their own self-image. I bet you have a nasal, irritating voice, too. Get over it. They are not people, and you should be glad that you are one.

Sam said at April 3, 2011 8:08 PM:

Basically, I agree with Annunaki Slayer - I do hope s/he wasn't April fooling.

If you've ever been the prey of a psychopath then you'll know without doubt that these individuals are not fully human. We normal humans do need them to be kept apart from society. They do immense harm, are prone to genocide, and every sort of evil you can think of - on a one-one level and on a global scale.

I used to be a bleeding heart namby-pamby, politically correct, liberal psychologist until an obsessive, sadistic psychopath thrust his vile claws into my family's life. I can say with certainty, this level of evil is entirely without conscience, shame, gilt or fear; it's wholly parasitic and costs society many $billions, not to mention the irreparable massive gouges of emotional destruction they leave behind them. Please or offend, I am certain that these defective life forms should not be allowed anywhere near healthy humans. And we'd all be better off if they were, after scrupulous examination, lawfully terminated.

anon said at May 2, 2011 8:24 PM:

I have to agree with your comments, I was also a bleeding heart social worker and psychotherapist who believed that all the psychopaths in my life just needed help and guidance or some form of medication. Even though the 'attachment' and 'bonding' I have for them would be threatened the second they were exterminated and I would probably cry at their funerals, the world truly would be a better place without them. If you look at the 1 in every 4 children who are exposed to sexual abuse and violence, the culprit is either a psychopath, borderpath, sociopath, malignant narcissist or antisocial personality disordered person and/or a victim of someone with these disorders. Same goes for the lack of action on climate change and the 21,894 species which go extinct each year thanks to the low empathy disordered corporate giants trying to increase their profit margins. Hundreds of people are released from prisons each year after being falsely accused for crimes they didn't commit, would they have been prosecuted in the first place if courts weren't so used to being lied to and manipulated all the time? Would they have been sent to jail if they weren't up against criminal lawyers who were psychopaths themselves? If the culprits for the above were not psychopaths they were probably just psychotic, borderline, histrionic or depressives etc who were the victims of psychopaths or low empathy disordered people. What society simply does not understand is how prevalent psychopathy is in the world we live in, some researches believe it could be as high as 3 in every 10 men and 1 in every 10 women. Unfortunately now that the entire world is becoming better educated and more academic + the invention of violent video/computer games in the early 90's, there is about to be a huge wave and increase of low-empathy disordered children and adults, something that needs to be addressed IMMEDIATELY. Also the lack of genuine 'attachments' and 'bonding' children are making thanks to facebook, social networking, bullying etc and huge pressures from parents to perform well at school, increases the title wave of low empathy disordered children and adults who are about to flood our society. Suicide rates (amongst their victims) will go up as well, even in much older generations that never had this problem before.
Most people believe they have never met a psychopath and will never meet one, (however their sister is dating one, their half brother is one and their father and uncles are both pathological as well). People simply don't understand what they look like or what traits they share, they are usually thought of as 'such a nice guy' who everybody likes because because they go around fixing things in your house or always have your favourite chai tea waiting for you in the morning etc.
Now that scientists have identified this group using brain scans -- average people can clearly see what they look like and how they differ from the rest of us. This is a great tool which anyone can use. I can now prove to my sister, mum, dad, kids etc that a certain person they are dealing with is a psychopath. This could also be a great tool for those who are not able to identify them simply by their behaviour and traits such as prisons who want to ascertain if someone is going to re-offend or not. This is a big step forward and until governments remove these people from society; average people like us should take this information into our own hands and use it to diagnose those who are close to us and then learn from books such as 'women who love psychopaths' how to stay away from them for good!

Ken said at May 3, 2011 10:52 AM:

Here is an interstesting question?
how did they find the "successful psychopath" for these tests If they committed crimes and were never caught?

gdk said at May 30, 2011 11:45 AM:

The research that has been done so far is magnificent and I am very grateful. This information has helped me personally immensely in gaining objective understanding of past relationships. A quick but important note is to point out the importance of looking at and healing one's own inability to take care of oneself that leaves one open to these type of people.

Apart from this I think it is important that we continue to stay objective and aim to learn more about this through scientific and sociological type of research. For instance a most obvious question to research would be whether in fact all people with these abnormalities actually commit crimes either physically or mentally against people and society?

I am hoping that as this information comes more to light people will generally wise up with regard to who they back in government, business and in personal relationships and hopefully we can live in a kinder and more peaceful world. But I think that once more testing is done it will be a surprise to most people to find out how many people actually have this disorder in varying degrees. A lot of research has to be done also both scientifically and sociologically to find out what is causing these disorders and how and if in fact we are all contributing to this in some way.

For instance back in the 80's when I was watching the young boys playing video war games it came to me that they were being entrained to kill mindlessly. In Michael Moore's 9/11 he showed young pilots bombing Iraqis while listening to rock music and saying that they were emotionally disconnected from what they were doing. I read the Japanese had discovered in their research that some video games retard the functioning of the frontal lobe. I am going to copy this info below:

Akio Mori, a professor at Tokyo's Nihon University, conducted a recent study observing the effects of video games on brain activity. He divided 260 people into three groups: those who rarely played video games, those who played between 1 and 3 hours three to four times a week, and those who played 2 to 7 hours each day. He then monitored "the beta waves that indicate liveliness and degree of tension in the prefrontal region of the brain, and alpha waves, which often appear when the brain is resting" (4). The results showed a higher decrease of beta waves the more one played video games. "Beta wave activity in people in the [highest amount of video game playing] was constantly near zero, even when they weren't playing, showing that they hardly used the prefrontal regions of their brains. Many of the people in this group told researchers that they got angry easily, couldn't concentrate, and had trouble associating with friends" (4). This suggests two important points. One, that the decrease of beta wave activity and usage of the prefrontal region of the brain may correlate with the aggressive behavior, and two, that the decrease of beta waves continued after the video game was turned off, implying a lasting effect. Another study found similar results and reported: "Youths who are heavy gamers can end up with 'video-game brain,' in which key parts of the frontal region of their brain become chronically underused, altering moods" (5). This study also asserts that a lack of use of the frontal brain, contributed by video games, can change moods and could account for aggressive and reclusive behavior. An important question arises: if the brain is so impacted by video games as to create behavioral changes, must that mean that the brain perceives the games as real?

Please before we start acting in a psychopathic manner ourselves by using this research to act in an indiscriminate manner please let us use our rational minds to learn more and use this information in a conscientious manner for the good of all.
As the research has shown our hippocampus has to connect and interact with our prefrontal lobe and the two hemispheres have to fire at the correct rate for us to think rationally and make judicious choices. We have to overcome our initial fear and anger response which is there to protect us and use this info wisely. THE BRAIN HAS SHOWN ITSELF BE HIGHLY PLASTIC and NEURON PATHWAYS CAN BE CHANGED. So please let us be open to awareness and growth in this highly important field, while at the same time being also aware to protect ourselves in a manner that is not discriminatory. On that note though I do think that once someone who has committed these type of crimes they should be tested and given the choice, once we have humane treatments for this, whether they want to be treated or stay locked up. I do not agree with letting psychopathic murders and rapists go free.

ray keen said at November 5, 2011 9:15 AM:

i am looking for any DNA research exploring the possibility that the genetic pre-disposition to psychopathic behavior is related to DNA sequences left from Neanderthal cross-breeding or other cross-species interbreeding with extinct hominid ancestral lines. the evidence is still very new, and somewhat controversial , but ,drawing on some passages from Dr.Hare's "without Conscience' which refers to a primitive pattern to thinking and vocal expression , "abnormal" EEG patterns and other information on deformed or abnormal brain structure, i wonder if this may be an expression of a reccessive inherited gene structure.
perhaps we really are seeing, as the population grows, environment changes and societal reward structure mutates,an increased expression of this genetic combination which may not be sustainable within the predominant societal value structure, but which may have been successful for extended periods of pre-history within a different context.
essentially a type of predatory hunter-gatherer genetic combination reemerging as a viable cultural influence ,having adapted to a different prey system , but retaining primitive socialization.

Ca7 said at December 6, 2011 1:54 PM:

Interesting, but I wonder if the larger corpus callosum is not just a side effect of physical figthing abilities where you need symetrical reactions from the left and right side and small speed differences got a great pay off, so it will be just a correlation with psychopathy and not a cause. To check that arround it would be interesting to scan martial art black belts after testing them for personality to make sure they don't have psychopathic tendencies themself.

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