Psychopaths May Lack Capacity for Empathy04/26/13
FRIDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Psychopaths lack the brain
"wiring" needed to have concern for other people, a new study
The findings are thought to be the first of their kind and could
possibly lead to the development of better treatment methods for
people with this personality disorder. Psychopathy includes traits
such as callousness, manipulation, sensation-seeking and antisocial
Psychopathy affects 20 percent to 30 percent of men and women in
U.S. prisons, compared with about 1 percent of the general
population. Psychopaths are responsible for a disproportionate
amount of repeat crime and violence.
The study included 80 prisoners, aged 18 to 50, in a U.S.
correctional facility who were assessed for levels of psychopathy.
The researchers then used functional MRI to monitor the prisoners'
brain activity in response to depictions of people being
intentionally hurt and facial expression showing pain.
Prisoners who had high levels of psychopathy had
lower-than-normal activation in areas of the brain including the
amygdala, which plays an important role in feeling concern for and
valuing the well-being of other people, according to the study,
which was published online April 24 in the journal
"A marked lack of empathy is a hallmark characteristic of individuals with psychopathy," study lead author Jean Decety, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago, said in a university news release.
Decety is an expert on the biological basis of empathy.
"This is the first time that neural processes associated with empathic processing have been directly examined in individuals with psychopathy, especially in response to the perception of other people in pain or distress," he said.
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