-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Among other traits,
psychopaths feel a lack of empathy when other people are in pain,
and brain scans now reveal why that is.
Psychopathy is a personality disorder marked by callousness,
manipulation, sensation seeking and antisocial behaviors. About 23
percent of people in prison are psychopaths, compared with about 1
percent of people in the general population.
In this study, researchers used functional MRI to observe brain
activity in 121 inmates at a medium-security prison in the United
States who were divided into three groups based on the levels of
their psychopathy: high, moderate or low.
The participants were shown pictures of physical pain, such as a
finger caught in a door or a toe trapped under a heavy object. They
were first asked to imagine that these accidents happened to
themselves and then to imagine that they happened to others.
When highly psychopathic inmates imagined themselves in these
painful situations, they showed higher-than-normal activity in
certain brain regions involved in empathy for pain. But these
regions failed to become active when they imagined others in
Moreover, when imagining other people in pain, highly
psychopathic inmates showed increased activity in a brain area
known to be involved in pleasure, according to the study, which was
published Sept. 24 in the journal
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
The findings may help lead to new treatment approaches for
psychopaths, the researchers said in a journal news release.
Mental Health America has more about
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