New Findings Spur Debate: Are Some Psychopaths Curable?
2013 08 15

By Cynthia Fox | Bioscience Technology

A new study finds psychopaths do not lack empathy. They just possess the ability to turn it on and off—perhaps making some curable.

Critics say psychopaths only lack a certain form of empathy. Their ability to understand it is part of what makes them so dangerous.

“The findings are fascinating,” says Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door. The UK and Germany apparently agree, recently making a book by the new study’s author a Der Spiegel bestseller.

Psychopaths can be alternately charming and brutal. There is something real in both their “faces.”

For the new Brain study, psychopathic criminals, lying in MRI’s, watched videos of a person being hurt by someone else. Only when asked to imagine the receiver’s pain did appropriate areas in psychopaths’ brains—involving pain response—ignite in a way mirroring controls’.

Without instruction, psychopaths displayed reduced activity in brain regions associated with both pain and pleasure. “The vicarious activation of motor, somatosensory, and emotional brain regions was much lower in the patients with psychopathy... The (standard) theory seemed right: their empathy was reduced, and this could explain why they committed such terrible crimes without feeling guilt,” wrote Groningen University neuroscientist Christian Keysers in a Psychology Today article about his new Brain study. (Keysers’ new book is The Empathic Brain.)

But when the team showed movies after mandating empathy, “this simple instruction sufficed to boost the empathic activation in their brain to a level that was hard to distinguish from that of the healthy controls. Suddenly, the psychopaths seemed as empathic as the next guy. Their empathy was switched on.”

The finding may bring hope, Keysers added by email. "There is a fundamental difference between the capacity for empathy, which psychopaths have, and the propensity to always be empathic by default. If we can turn capacity into propensity, we could really help them."

Some supporters note many therapists try this with psychopathic children. They tell kids how “mirror neurons” light up in the same brain areas of people watching others—and those being watched. (Keysers’ team pioneered mirror neuron research.) Such therapists tell patients that brain synchrony indicates they can empathize.

Others are less sure.

“It’s very important people not misunderstand,” says Stout. “Sadly, I don’t think the results speak to a cure. “

Studies of “disorders of consciencelessness," she says, show that “psychopaths/sociopaths are often exceedingly charming, can ‘read’ people when it suits their purposes, and can learn (with calculated effort) to recognize and imitate overt signs of emotion in others. I find it interesting but not surprising that functional mirror neurons are present. Psychopaths can read other people if they choose.”

But, says Stout, “They just don’t usually choose to, because the tragic deficit appears to be the maldevelopment of the paralimbic system (the brain’s emotional area). This more general deficit prevents psychopaths from forming bonds to others, prevents them from loving or caring. Where emotion is concerned, psychopaths can see it in others when they make a concerted conscious effort. They just don’t care to do so unless they can use it to their own advantage.”

[...]

Read the full article at: biosciencetechnology.com




Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Mike Cross - Hour 1 - Philosophy of a Psychopathic Society

Mike Cross - Hour 2 - Template of Conformity & The Psychopath’s Utopia

Thomas Sheridan - The Labyrinth of the Psychopath & The Intraspecies Predators

Mark Passio - Hour 1 - Dark Occult Forces & Natural Law




Related Articles
Psychopathic Kids Don’t Process Fear Very Quickly
Psychopath vs Sociopath
Are Politicians Psychopaths?
Why Mass Killers Aren’t Necessarily Psychopaths
Can (Should) Social Media Be Used to Identify Psychopaths?
Can a Kid Be a Psychopath?
Psychopaths and The Multicultural Myth
Are Psychopaths “Brain Damaged”?
Psychopaths Run The World
Asperger’s and Autism: Brain Differences Found
Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress
"The Google Brain" --Are Humans Entering a New Epoch of Evolution?
Brain Scans Reveal That Humans Definitely Feel Empathy For Robots


Latest News from our Front Page

Document Confirms British were Plotting to Invade Germay Before Germany Invaded Poland
2014 09 02
The declaration of war against Germany had nothing to do with Poland, and was in fact a brutal war of aggression launched for economic reasons against the peaceful German people. As you can see in Judea Declares War on Germany. From dailymail.co.uk: An early version of the ‘King’s Speech’ reveals Britain was preparing to declare war on Germany before Hitler invaded ...
Study Claims Cave Art Made by Neanderthals
2014 09 02
A series of lines scratched into rock in a cave near the southwestern tip of Europe could be proof that Neanderthals were more intelligent and creative than previously thought. The cross-hatched engravings inside Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar are the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art, according to a team of scientists who studied the site. The find is significant because ...
EU Nanny State to Ban Toasters, Kettles & Hair Dryers!
2014 09 02
"Despite arctic sea ice growing by 43%, the EU nanny state is set to ban toasters, hair dryers and kettles in the name of preventing global warming."
Nigeria launches new biometric ID card - brought to you by Mastercard
2014 09 02
Yesterday afternoon, president Goodluck Jonathan became the first recipient of Nigeria’s new national eID card, in a ceremony at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja. The cards will be issued to 13 million Nigerians as part of a pilot project, with the ultimate aim of producing a national identity management system (NIMS). Nigeria’s NIMS is an ambitious attempt to consolidate ...
LA Times Now Describing Illegal Aliens As ’Informal Workers’ Who ’Labor Unofficially’
2014 09 02
Via Weasel Zippers, we learned the Los Angeles Times has a new term for illegal aliens in the work force: they’re “informal workers,” and that doesn’t mean they don’t arrive on the job in a tuxedo. Times reporter Tiffany Hsu (a "UC Berkeley grad") began her Saturday story with the new I-word (and illegal immigrants also “labored unofficially” in "gray employment"): Informal ...
More News »