One of the most powerful facts that I may have ever learned is that psychopaths differ biologically from other people. I remember the epiphany I experienced as soon as I internalized this fact, quickly realizing the profound implications it had for everything from psychotherapy to activism to day-to-day life.
When I wrote my detailed page about psychopathy, I made sure to include information about some of these biological differences. Many of them have to do with the ways in which psychopaths’ brain structure and function diverge from that of others.
Recently, a new study was published adding to this important and growing mass of findings.
A team from Italy used MRI to compare the morphology of three brain areas – the caudate, putamen and nucleus accumbens – in offenders scoring medium-high on the Psychopathy Checklist, Revised to those in healthy controls. They found that the offenders had significantly different morphology of the caudate and putamen and a significantly smaller volume in the nucleus accumbens.
The findings were published in “Atypical nucleus accumbens morphology in psychopathy: Another limbic piece in the puzzle” in The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.
As important as these and related findings are, they still fail to answer another crucial question: Are psychopaths innately genetically endowed with these differences or do they acquire them either in utero or at some other point during development? If we are able to learn more about the answers to that question, the implications could become even more profound.
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