Psychopaths such as Hannibal Lecter - Anthony Hopkins' character in Silence of the Lambs - have detectable, physical differences in their brains. The news could help 'screen' for psychopaths - and even help treat the formerly untreatable disorder
Psychopaths such as Hannibal Lecter - Anthony Hopkins' character in the film The Silence of the Lambs - are callous, anti-social and sometimes violent. They are incapable of feeling empathy or guilt.
Many lead 'normal' - even successful - lives. In fact, a recent study suggested that up to one in 25 business leaders may be psychopaths.
One per cent of the population at large is generally reckoned to be psychopathic - but up to 20 per cent of the prison population is reckoned to be psychopathic.
The disorder prevents people feeling 'empathy' towards other people, or guilt for offences.
Psychopaths don't suffer from delusions, though, so serve their jail terms in ordinary prisons, rather than mental facilities - and many are highly adept at 'pretending' to think in the same way as normal people.
New research has uncovered that manipulative, callous and sometimes violent behaviour could actually be hard-wired into psychopaths from birth.
The disorder is untreatable - and this discovery could unlock new ways to understand, and perhaps even treat the disorder.
Ameriocan researchers took a magnetic-resonance imaging scanner to a medium security prison in Wisconsin, and scanned the brains of 40 prisoners in a doing time for similar offences, half of whom had been diagnosed with psychopathy.
'I hope our research will shed light on the source of psychopathy - and strategies for treating it'
Results of the study revealed both structural and functional abnormalities in the brains of the psychopaths, with scientists finding there was less communication between two key areas of their brains than the other prisoners.
The first of these structures, known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, is responsible for emotions including empathy and guilt.
The second, called the amygdala, controls levels of fear and anxiety.
It is thought the lack of communication between these two areas makes it difficult for psychopaths to regulate their social and emotional behaviour.
Study author Professor Michael Koenigs, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison said the two structures 'seemed not to be communicating as they should.'
There was evidence not only of physical diffferences in white matter, but of electrical activity in the areas connecting the two.
Professor Koenigs, whose findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience added: 'This is the first study to show both structural and functional differences in the brains of people diagnosed with psychopathy.'
'The decision-making study showed indirectly what this study shows directly - that there is a specific brain abnormality associated with criminal psychopathy.'
Magnetic resonance scan MRI of the head computer enhanced and colorized: Scans of psychopaths show that 'links' present in normal people are lacking in the psychopathic brain
Co-author Professor Joseph Newman added: 'The combination of structural and functional abnormalities provides compelling evidence that the dysfunction observed in this crucial social-emotional circuitry is a stable characteristic of our psychopathic offenders.'
The research builds on earlier work by Newman and Koenigs that showed that psychopaths' decision-making mirrors that of patients with known damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC).
'I am optimistic that our ongoing collaborative work will shed more light on the source of this dysfunction and strategies for treating the problem,' says Newman.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2065161/Psychopaths-arent-just-mentally-different--brains-physically-deformed-prevent-feeling-fear-guilt.html#ixzz1fCycpP5r