July 16, 2016

"I was looking at many scans, scans of murderers mixed in with schizophrenics, depressives and other, normal brains."

"Out of serendipity, I was also doing a study on Alzheimer’s and as part of that, had brain scans from me and everyone in my family right on my desk. I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological..."
Knowing that it belonged to a member of his family, [the neuroscientist James] Fallon checked his lab’s PET machine for an error (it was working perfectly fine) and then decided he simply had to break the blinding that prevented him from knowing whose brain was pictured. When he looked up the code, he was greeted by an unsettling revelation: the psychopathic brain pictured in the scan was his own.

35 comments:

robinintn said...

We're diagnosing serious mental illness with brain scans now?

EDH said...

I can't seem to face up to the facts
I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax
I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire
Don't touch me I'm a real live wire

robinintn said...

Also, he appears to have an ethics problem: "...decided he simply had to break the blinding..."

Michael K said...

Oh Oh. Better rewrite the code.

Charlie said...

Fallon's insights are very important. He cites the love he received as a child as having protected him from the darker paths his mind may have taken, and he acknowledges that he is able to make choices as an adult to be more empathetic. Biology is not destiny, and the quality of a child's home growing up has a lot to do with how that child will turn out as an adult.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Now he'll have to evaluate his thoughts during masturbation in a whole new way.

Crimso said...

So the calls were coming from INSIDE the house.

Hagar said...

Althouse's theme of the day seems to be "pointy-headed intellectuals who cain't park their bicicles straight."

Fernandinande said...

If he's a psychopath he's probably lying about being a psychopath.

Charlie said...
Biology is not destiny, and the quality of a child's home growing up has a lot to do with how that child will turn out as an adult.


Not really.

robinintn said...
We're diagnosing serious mental illness with brain scans now?


There's some doubt that psychopathy is an illness as opposed to a set of adaptive personality traits which happen to be unpleasant to other people. "High functioning" psychopaths function quite well and are relatively common in the legal (cops, lawyers, politicians) and some medical professions (surgeons); the Billaries are probably good examples.

Rob said...

I've always suspected Jimmy Fallon was a psychopath. The obsessive grinning and feigned hilarity were the tell.

Birches said...

Could the same apply to CTE?

YoungHegelian said...

Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid
Happier than you and me
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid
And it determined what he could see
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid
One chromosome too many
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid
And it determined what he could see

And he wore a hat
And he had a job
And he brought home the bacon
So that no one knew
He was a mongoloid, mongoloid
His friends were unaware
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid
Nobody even cared
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid
One chromosome too many
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid
And it determined what he could see

And he wore a hat
And he had a job
And he brought home the bacon
So that no one knew
He was a mongoloid, mongoloid
Happier than…


Devo --- Mongoloid (1977)

TCom said...

"Not really."

Pack it up boys, let's go home. Nobody can challenge this intellectual heavyweight.

Owen said...

Highly interesting finding. The drama here is powered by the binary division between nature and nurture. Genetic Calvinism on the one hand and on the other hand the State and society as the all-powerful sculptors.

In fact I think (without doing the least bit of research or reflection of course; this IS a blog comment) that epigenetics are important and tend to mediate the binary division. Genes dictate some things and bias others. Genes switch on and off based on signals, some of them very local (cell level) and others driven to some degree by distant (outside the body) pressures. If you are raised a certain way, it will have an effect. D'oh. But beyond the "d'oh" let's focus on exactly what effects, how they operate, what kind of genetic landscape responds to them in what differential way, etc.

Michael K said...

""High functioning" psychopaths function quite well "

Aside from the reference to surgeons, I agree somewhat.

The book, "The 10,000 year explosion" goes into genetics and behavior quite a bit. The authors postulate the "con man" role in evolution which works until the rest catch on.

Then there is The Hawk-Dove game theory, which may explain inner city violence, for example.

Hawks are successful as long as the majority are doves. When doves and hawks are equal, the hawks begin to lose their advantage and winning becomes too expensive.

If the hawks can convince the doves to disband the police, of course....

Paddy O said...

I suspect there's a higher than average percentage of pyschopaths in academia. That world definitely rewards those with that tendency. And I say this as someone in that world.

Yancey Ward said...

The way he learned of his scan is pretty telling, no? Do pyscho- and sociopaths realize what they are?

Fernandinande said...

TCom said...
Pack it up boys, let's go home. Nobody can challenge this intellectual heavyweight.


Pack it up boys, let's go home. Nobody can challenge this intellectual heavyweight who is apparently completely ignorant of the past 20 years of genetics behavioral research and makes empty comments which appeal to emotions and ignorance.

Michael K said...
Aside from the reference to surgeons, I agree somewhat.


Regular doctors are very low on the psychopathy scales/frequency of psychos.

"According to Dutton, the ten careers that have the highest proportion of psychopaths are:[11]
CEO
Lawyer
Media (TV/radio)
Salesperson
Surgeon
Journalist
Police officer
Clergy
Chef
Civil servant"
Other people have come up with similar lists.

CEO, lawyer, media/journalist, salesman and cop seem pretty intuitively true. About 2-3% of the general population are considered to be psychopaths, so these professions aren't necessarily comprised mostly of 'paths (except cops and journalists...).

The advantage for surgeons is supposedly not getting flustered under pressure, and tho a psycho surgeon doesn't care much or at all about the patient (e.g., my girlfriend's hip surgeon) they can do a good job at an ego-boosting mechanical operation. (exception to doing a good job: girlfriend's hip surgeon. Fake hip popped out, he didn't even want to hear about it, no interest at all - "go to the emergency room" [stop making me look bad].)

Plus - cutting up unconscious people! How fun is that?

The authors postulate the "con man" role in evolution which works until the rest catch on.

That strategy works best in large societies where people don't know each other well, or at all, so it might be increasing (or has been increasing over the past 10K years). But the evolutionary definition of a working strategy is having more surviving offspring, not making money or getting away with crimes. Genghis Khan, perhaps?

"7 Million People Direct Descendants Of Single Smooth-Talking Ancestor"

Michael K said...

I guess I finally understand fernandinande's hostility.

Sorry about your girlfriend's hip.

You could read my book and learn a little but I doubt you would be interested.

Fernandinande said...

Michael K said...
I guess I finally understand fernandinande's hostility.


My hostility toward you, trivial as it is, started when you claimed it was "arrogant" to not believe the same silly ghost stories and superstitions that some people you know happen to believe. It continues, slightly, because of the anecdotal, unsubstantiated things your write on subjects you should know better about (your stories about LSD using medical students are a hoot, and quite typical of superstitious "thinking"). You made up some bullshit about Australians aborigines not being a race rather than admit you were wrong.

David said...

Fallon: "But while I’m aggressive, but my aggression is sublimated. I’d rather beat someone in an argument than beat them up.”

He is smart enough and educated enough that he can win most of the arguments. And maybe being a psychopath helps him to think he has won when he actually did not. But what about the less argumentatively gifted person who loses regularly. My hypothesis would be to watch out for violence from that individual.



Michael K said...

The stories about medical students and LSD were true. The Dean, Roger Egeberg, died years ago and cannot add his comment.

Egeberg was a great guy.

Egeberg was noticed by MacArthur who made him his personal physician and aide-de-camp. Egeberg rose to the rank of colonel and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Legion of Merit. At the end of the war, Egeberg treated the Prime Minister of Japan, Hideki Tojo who had shot himself. Tojo was later hanged.[6]

I can't say I care about your hostility but was interested to see where it came from. Your other comments make no sense.

Valentine Smith said...

Brain scans should be required of all presidential candidates and blog commenters.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I suspect there's a higher than average percentage of pyschopaths in academia. That world definitely rewards those with that tendency. And I say this as someone in that world."

Really? I would have guessed that it would be difficult to play the office politics required in academia if one had this disorder.

Laslo Spatula said...

Freeman Hunt said...
"Really? I would have guessed that it would be difficult to play the office politics required in academia if one had this disorder."

The one good thing about being mentally disordered is how quickly you recognize it in someone else.

Crazy don't fuck with crazy.

I've seen them in all stages of my career, and life. They know I know from the first moment we set eyes on each other, and then they leave me alone. A dysfunctional Courtesy, maybe.

I want to repeat that, because it is SO True among the disordered:the Recognition is instant. The Normal don't even notice.

Then I watch them with the 'normal' people and I have to say I am impressed: the normal people will roll over for a belly rub if you say the right words.

The Normal are always a step behind.

I am Laslo.


JCC said...

That's a fascinating article. I suppose it simply strengthens the theory that genes plus environment make the man. True serial killers usually (but not always) do have horrific childhoods, althought they also manifest the signs quite early. Maybe it's a case of degree. But the lack of empathy is perhaps not linked with the lack if impulse control in some people, or maybe the right chidlhood equips some with an inoculation somehow.

Who knows? But fascinating nonetheless. And that the researcher decided to violate the rules mandating a blind study without much reflection does suggest the scan is correct. Maybe this "rules are for other people" thing so typical from liberals has a genetic base after all.

Mandatory PET scans for presidentail candidates. Now that might open things up.

Roughcoat said...

I read somewhere a theory that Charles Manson was a sociopath not a psychopath because he genuinely cared about (i.e. had empathy for) his girls albeit in a sick twisted way; whereas his henchman Tex Watson was a full-blown psychopath who had no empathy for anyone.

Michael K said...

"True serial killers usually (but not always) do have horrific childhoods,"

They have to inherit those genes from somebody.

I interview some kids from awful childhoods who are joining the military. I had one the other day.

His mother had never been around. His grandfather took him in until he was 7. Then he went to foster care. At age 11 he was adopted by foster parents. He seems like a nice kid but he had a lot of dental issues. Nobody paid for orthodontia.

Sometimes genetics can compensate for bad childhoods, too.

Roughcoat said...

If every kid who had a bad childhood became a psychopath we'd have a lot of psychopaths.

Roughcoat said...

I've always said that I knew more psychopaths and sociopaths in high school than I've meet at anytime in the later course of my life. My high school was a tough place with plenty of kids with problematic backgrounds. I once mentioned this to an authority in the field and he told me that it's not unusual for a kids in their teens to exhibit psychopathic or sociopathic behaviors and tendencies but that most of them grow out of this "phase" as their brains mature and their brain chemistry changes.

JCC said...

I was only suggesting that perhaps the terrible childhood traumas of some serial killers perhaps triggered the genetic predisposition to violent behavior and lack of empathy or lack of identification with other humans. They almost certainly learned by example the lack of impulse control. You can see that in the family histories of abusers who begat new generations of abusers.

mikee said...

Nature versus nurture is all well and good, but when will the drug that stops the brain from functioning psychopathically, or sociopathically, be developed? Preferably, it would mandate "normal, healthy" brain function, perhaps even at a very high level of operation, but when brain scans get good enough for mandatory incarceration of those with "bad brains" I hope this drug is available for their use.

JamesB.BKK said...

mikee: The movie "Serenity" comes to mind.

JamesB.BKK said...

A take on epigenetics and claims about it: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/the-new-yorker-screws-up-big-time-with-science-researchers-criticize-the-mukherjee-piece-on-epigenetics/