The brains of psychopaths people who have been convicted of murder, rape and other violent crimes have clear evidence for structural abnormalities that distinguish them from other people, according to a British scientific research, which suggests that psychopathy is ultimately a distinct developmental disorder of the brain.
Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry of the King’s College London, led by Nigel Blackwood, said that the potential use of brain imaging techniques to identify and diagnose the specific violent psychopaths is important from the therapeutic point of view, since the cognitive-behavioral therapy is often effective in this case.
The new research has shown that psychopaths who are characterized by a lack of empathy for other people have less gray matter in those parts of the brain that are important for understanding the feelings and intentions of others. The findings, in addition to their importance for better separation of mentally ill people from non-psychopaths are also significant for the judicial system.
The British researchers used functional MRI to visualize the brains of 44 violent adults convicted in Britain for various crimes and 22 healthy people for comparison. 17 of 44 were diagnosed with psychopathy with antisocial personality disorder and 27 were not found psychopaths but suffering from antisocial personality disorder.
The comparative study showed that psychopaths have significantly smaller gray matter volume in the anterior prefrontal cortex and temporal regions in relation to non-psychopaths and healthy people who have not committed crimes. Scientists already know that in healthy people damage in these areas (due to a trauma, an illness, etc.) is associated with loss of emotional approach and identification, as well as lack of fear, guilt and anxiety.
The most violent crimes, according to the scientists, are performed by a small group of people categorized as either “hothead” (those with antisocial personality disorder but not psychopathy) or as “untouched” with cold heart (psychopaths). The latter, according to Blackwood, begin earlier to manifest their criminal behavior, conduct a broader range of crimes and respond worse to treatment programs compared with the first, the antisocial non-psychopaths.