‘We forfeit three-quarters of ourselves in order to be like other people.’ –Schopenhauer


A few months ago I wrote a two-part post about how fMRI and PET scan technology were able to detect differences in the brains of psychopaths compared to non-psychopathic individuals. This area of research has identified that psychopathy has a genetic component, and has even been used in court cases to determine sentencing.

Recently, I came across a story on NPR about a neuroscientist who studies these scans, and decided to analyze his own brain scans and those of his family to determine if psychopathy was present. What he found was more than a little disturbing to him…

James Fallon reported that there was a documented history of criminal activity on his paternal side of the family, (including a relation to Lizzy Borden), that made him curious to view the brain scans of his family. They had all previously submitted brain scans and a blood sample in order to rule out a risk for Alzheimer’s, so he had the materials already. […] Fallon decided to go one step further and analyze the blood samples in search of genes that are associated with violence; namely the MAO-A gene (monoamine oxidase A), specifically MAOA-L (low activity variant). […] Much to his dismay, Fallon again found that everyone in his family has the low-aggression variant of the MAO-A gene, except for one person—himself.

Fallon isn’t, of course, a killer; however, genetically speaking he meets the criteria of psychopathy. […] And therein lays the process of how one person can become a psychopath, and another to go on with a fairly “normal” life.

{ Forensic Focus | Continue reading }

photo { Leon Levinstein, Fifth Avenue, 1959 }