aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Neuroscientist who studies psychopaths discovers he could be one

It’s a twist out of fiction, but it’s real: James Fallon, a neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine who has studied the brains of psychopaths, took a look at his own family tree and discovered that his great-grandfather, Thomas Cornell, was hanged in 1667 for murdering his mother. That line of Cornells produced seven other alleged murderers, including Lizzy Borden.

It gets even stranger. Fallon already had scans of family member’s brains for another project he had done. He knew that psychopaths typically have unusual brain scans. He looked at his family’s brain scans for the pattern.

Only one person had it: himself.

His orbital cortex was deficent. “Fallon says the orbital cortex puts a brake on another part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved with aggression and appetites. But in some people, there's an imbalance — the orbital cortex isn't doing its job — perhaps because the person had a brain injury or was born that way. "What's left? What takes over?" he asks. "The area of the brain that drives your id-type behaviors, which is rage, violence, eating, sex, drinking."”

It gets worse. He also looked for genes associated with violence and aggression. Again, he was the only one in the family who had them.

The article on NPR also says there may be a third component besides brain patterns and genetic makeup - abuse or violence in childhood.

I’m very interested in the topic of sociopaths because Lis’s and my next book, Heart of Ice, features a sociopath.

I also have a personal reason for being interested. A sociopath has greatly affected my family’s life. But as far as I know, there was no violence or abuse in childhood. So perhaps there is a fourth factor?

Can your genes make you murder?
The sentencing debate.

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Tags: npr, sociopaths

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