The brain anomalies of violent psychopaths

The high relapse rate of violent offenders who have been diagnosed as psychopaths would be linked to abnormalities in the brain circuits intended for the mental representation of rewards and punishments, which lead them to consider only the possible positive consequences, not the negative ones. , although these are more likely(red)

People with antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy show abnormalities in the brain circuitry responsible for representing and learning a behavior-related reward or punishment. This is the conclusion reached by some researchers from King’s College London, who sign an article published in “The Lancet Psychiatry”.

Courtesy Sebastian Anthony

“One in five violent offenders are psychopaths. These people have particularly high relapse rates and do not benefit from rehabilitation programs,” says Nigel Blackwood, who led the study. “Psychopathic offenders are different from normal criminals in several ways. . The latter are hypersensitive to threats, short-tempered and aggressive, while psychopaths have a very low response to threats, are cold and their aggression is premeditated. “

As part of a program to reduce the risk of relapses and develop more adequate rehabilitation schemes, the researchers sought to identify the possible neural mechanisms underlying the persistent violent behavior of psychopaths, mechanisms whose existence has already been suggested by others. searches.

Blackwood’s group underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) a group of violent crime inmates diagnosed with antisocial disorder and psychopathy, a group of violent crime inmates but without that diagnosis, and a group of healthy non-delinquents. The fMRI scan was performed while subjects performed a task in which they had to assess the likelihood of certain behaviors resulting in a reward or punishment.

“In carrying out the neuropsychological tasks, the delinquents

violent people have failed to learn from punishment, nor to change their behavior in the face of changing situations, making poor decisions, despite being able to meditate for a long time, “explained Blackwood.

While in non-psychopathic violent offenders there was no difference in brain activation compared to non-delinquents, in psychopaths there was an abnormal response in the posterior cingulate and insula regions, which also corresponded to anomalies in the white matter tracts. which connect these two regions.

“These findings suggest that violent offenders with psychopathy are characterized by a particular organization of the brain network designed to learn from punishment and rewards,” says Blackwood. “Offenders with psychopathy can only consider the possible positive consequences, and fail to account for the likely negative consequences. As a result, their behavior often leads to punishment rather than the reward they expected.”

The brain anomalies of violent psychopaths – The Sciences