Neuroscientist James Fallon’s Work & Life Shed Light on How Psychopathic Killers are Made…and Perhaps PreventedTuesday, March 5th, 2013
One of the most challenging and important questions in ponerology is whether conditions associated with reduced empathy and conscience, and thus with increased likelihood of harmful malicious and neglectful activity, are caused by nature (genes, biology, etc.) or nurture (environment, upbringing, etc.)
Most who work in the fields that study aspects of this question take the view that the answer involves some combination of the two.
But this still leaves us with another question. In what proportion do each of these factors contribute in which people?
One remarkable case offers some fascinating insight on the subject.
Dr. James Fallon
James Fallon, Ph.D. is a highly decorated neuroscientist and Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Neurobiology at University of California, Irvine. Dr. Fallon has several areas of expertise. One is adult stem cells. Another is psychiatry. Specifically, he is interested in the relationships between brain imaging (he has served as Director of UC Irvine’s Human Brain Imaging Center), genetics and various psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia, depression and addictions.
An Extraordinary Experiment
Aware of his specialties, for many years, Fallon’s colleagues have sent him brain images they wished to have him analyze.
At one point this interchange took the form of an experiment.
Colleagues sent him 70 MRI scans of brains belonging to people ranging from healthy to mentally ill. Included in the batch were scans of brains belonging to killers, including some notorious ones. But Fallon had no idea which scanned brain belonged to whom.
Nonetheless, he was able to identify differences in five of the scans so dramatic that he could recognize them as the markers of psychopathy. And it turned out that he was correct. The five scans on which he zeroed in actually were those from the brains of psychopathic serial killers. (more…)