Category Archives: biology

Scans Show Psychopaths Have Brain Abnormalities…Click the link below to read full article.

Scans Show Psychopaths Have Brain Abnormalities

By  Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 11, 2012

Scans Show Psychopaths Have Brain Abnormalities    new research shows that psychopathy is linked to specific structural abnormalities in the brain.

The study, published in theArchives of General Psychiatry and led by researchers at King’s College London, also confirmed that psychopathy is a distinct sub-group of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), said Nigel Blackwood, M.D., from the College’s Institute of Psychiatry and lead author of the study.

He noted that most violent crimes are committed by a small group of male offenders with ASPD, but only about a third of these men are true psychopaths (ASPD+P). Psychopaths are characterized by a lack of empathy and remorse, and use aggression in a planned way to secure what they want, whether it is status or money.

Previous research has shown that psychopaths’ brains differ structurally from healthy brains, but until now, none have examined these differences within a population of violent offenders with ASPD, Blackwood said.

“Using MRI scans we found that psychopaths had structural brain abnormalities in key areas of their ‘social brains’ compared to those who just had ASPD,” he said.

He noted there is a clear difference between those with ASPD and those with ASPD+P.

“We describe those without psychopathy as hot-headed and those with psychopathy as cold-hearted,” he said.

“The cold-hearted psychopathic group begin offending earlier, engage in a broader range and greater density of offending behaviors, and respond less well to treatment programs in adulthood, compared to the hot-headed group. We now know that this behavioral difference corresponds to very specific structural brain abnormalities which underpin psychopathic behavior, such as profound deficits in empathizing with the distress of others.”

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 44 violent offenders diagnosed with ASPD. Crimes committed included murder, rape, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. Of these, 17 met the diagnosis for psychopathy (ASPD+P) and 27 did not (ASPD-P). They also scanned the brains of 22 healthy non-offenders.

The study found that ASPD+P offenders displayed significantly reduced grey matter volumes in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and temporal poles compared to ASPD-P offenders and healthy non-offenders.

These areas are important in understanding other people’s emotions and intentions and are activated when people think about moral behavior, the researchers noted. Damage to these areas is associated with impaired empathizing with other people, a poor response to fear and distress, and a lack of self-conscious emotions such as guilt or embarrassment.

“Identifying and diagnosing this sub-group of violent offenders with brain scans has important implications for treatment,” Blackwood continued. “Those without the syndrome of psychopathy, and the associated structural brain damage, will benefit from cognitive and behavioral treatments. Optimal treatment for the group of psychopaths is much less clear at this stage.”

Original article click HERE:

Source: King’s College London 


Chronic Childhood Stress Leaves Lasting Impact on Brain. An interesting article…

By  Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on June 29, 2014

child-covering-eyes-with-hands-blond-white-big-SSExtreme stress experienced during childhood, such as poverty, neglect, and physical abuse, might alter the parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and the processing of stress and emotion.

These changes may be linked to negative effects on behavior, health, employment, and even the choice of romantic partners later in life, according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“We haven’t really understood why things that happen when you’re two, three, four years old stay with you and have a lasting impact,” said Dr. Seth Pollak, co-leader of the study and UW-Madison professor of psychology.

“Yet,” noted Pollak, “early life stress has been linked to depression,anxiety, heart disease, cancer, and a lack of educational and employment success.”

“Given how costly these early stressful experiences are for society … unless we understand what part of the brain is affected, we won’t be able to tailor something to do about it,” said Pollak, also director of the UW Waisman Center’s Child Emotion Research Laboratory.

The study involved 128 children, approximately age 12, who had experienced either physical abuse, neglect early in life, or came from low socioeconomic status.

The children and their caregivers underwent in-depth interviews, reporting behavioral problems and their cumulative life stress. The researchers also took images of the children’s brains, focusing on the hippocampus and amygdala, parts of the brain involved in emotion and stress processing. These images were compared to similar children from middle-class households who had not been maltreated.

The researchers outlined each child’s hippocampus and amygdala by hand and calculated their volumes. Both brain structures are very small, especially in children, and the researchers believed that automated software measurements might be prone to error.

The findings showed that children who experienced any of the three types of early life stress had smaller amygdalas than children who had not. Children who lived in poverty and children who had been physically abused also had smaller hippocampal volumes.

Putting the same images through automated software showed no effects. Behavioral problems and increased cumulative life stress were linked to smaller hippocampus and amygdala volumes.

“For me, it’s an important reminder that as a society we need to attend to the types of experiences children are having,” Pollak said. “We are shaping the people these individuals will become.”

But the findings, say the researchers, are only markers for neurobiological change — a display of the robustness of the human brain, and not a crystal ball to be used to see the future.

“Just because it’s in the brain doesn’t mean it’s destiny,” said study author and UW Ph.D. graduate Jamie Hanson.

The study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Article courtesy and originally from:

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

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