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Psychopaths’ Brains

June 4, 2012

Specific brain abnormalities distinguish true psychopaths from other violent criminals.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Psychopathic brains.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

True psychopaths – such as manipulative, remorseless serial killers – have different brains from other violent offenders.  This according to forensic psychologist Nigel Blackwood of King’s College, London.  He and his colleagues studied British prisoners with anti-social personality disorder, some of whom were also clinically psychopathic.  The psychopaths’ brains had less gray matter, a key type of nerve tissue, in areas linked to social and emotional awareness, shame, and morality.

NIGEL BLACKWOOD (King’s College, London):

So damage to these areas, may underpin the profound abnormalities in things like empathy, or guilt, that the psychopathic offenders experience.

HIRSHON:
Blackwood notes the non-psychopathic prisoners had committed similar crimes, but were generally hot-headed and impulsive rather than cold and calculating.  And in the aforementioned areas, their brains they were like those of non-offenders from the general population.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.\

Psychopathic men (above) have reduced grey matter volume in social/emotional brain regions (red), even compared to non-psychopathic violent criminals (below). (Image courtesy of King's College London)