The Neuroscientist who discovered he was a Psychopath

This article at the Smithsonian talks about a scientist discovering that he’s a psychopath. While there is no formal definition of psychopath, the DSM does define Antisocial Personality Disorder as

The essential feature of antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This pattern has also been referred to as psychopathy, sociopathy, or dyssocial personality disorder.

Most people commonly use psychopath to mean that the person is antisocial, has no empathy or remorse, and has low control of him/her self.

So this researcher, James Fallon, was looking at brain scans of serial killers. And schizophrenics, and normal people, and people in an Alzheimer’s study. He and his family were part of the Alzheimer’s study. When he got down to the bottom of the stack, he got to one that matched psychopath’s brains, and he also knew it was one of his family members in the Alzheimer’s study. He didn’t know who it was because he only had the numbers (it was a blind study).

Well, he shouldn’t have broken the blind, but really, what would you do in his position? He found out that the psychopath in his family was himself. Now what would you do? He decided that since he hadn’t acted psychotic and broken any laws, he would tell people. Not only tell people, but he wrote a book: The Psychopath Inside.

While he has genes that are associated with violent behavior, he hasn’t acted on it. He attributes this to a good, loving, childhood. It appears that genetic determinism can be overcome. Which means genetic determinism is wrong.

There’s more, and it’s quite interesting.