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Weaker Brain Links Found In Psychopaths

Side Note: Wait just a darn minute there Science, you mean to tell us that our traditional way of handling psychopaths and dismissing their conditions as we toss them up in jail cells is completely flawed? Interesting:

Decreased communication between emotional and executive centers may contribute

Brain differences might help explain psychopaths’ cold, calculated and often antisocial behavior, and perhaps even point out better ways to treat or prevent the disorder, a study of Wisconsin prison inmates suggests.

Compared with a group of 13 non-psychopathic criminals, a group of 14 psychopaths had weaker connections between an area near the front of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, or vmPFC, and the amygdala, a pair of almond-shaped structures deep in the brain. Earlier studies have hinted that this particular link is important for emotional regulation and aggression.

Neuroscientist Michael Koenigs of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and colleagues discovered the weaker connection by taking a mobile brain scanner to a medium-security prison. Psychopaths are overrepresented in prison populations thanks to their lack of empathy and tendency toward antisocial behavior.

After interviewing inmates and scrutinizing their disciplinary records to determine whether they were psychopaths, the scientists conducted two kinds of brain scans. The first measured the strength of brain connections called white matter tracts, which are bundles of nerves that serve as information superhighways that shuttle information between different brain regions. It was those scans that revealed the weaker link between the vmPFC and the amygdala in psychopaths, the team reports November 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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