The Psychopath Inside

For his first fifty-eight years, James Fallon was by all appearances a normal guy. A successful neuroscientist and professor, he’d been raised in a loving family, married his high school sweetheart, and had three kids and lots of friends. Then he learned a shocking truth that would not only disrupt his personal and professional life, but would lead him to question the very nature of his own identity.
While researching serial killers, he uncovered a pattern in their brain scans that helped explain their cold and violent behavior. Astonishingly, his own scan matched that pattern. And a few months later he learned that he was descended from a long line of murderers. Fallon set out to reconcile the truth about his own brain with everything he knew as a scientist about the mind, behavior, and personality.

“I was looking at many scans, scans of murderers mixed in with schizophrenics, depressives and other, normal brains,” he says. “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.”

The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath

While studying brain scans to search for patterns that correlated with psychopathic behavior, James Fallon found that his own brain fit the profile

control brain
Compared to a control brain (top), neuroscientist James Fallon’s brain (bottom) shows significantly decreased activity in areas of the frontal lobe linked to empathy and morality—anatomical patterns that have been linked with psychopathic behavior. (Image via James Fallon)

By Joseph StrombergSMITHSONIANMAG.COM
NOVEMBER 22, 2013

One afternoon in October 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon was looking at brain scans of serial killers. As part of a research project at UC Irvine, he was sifting through thousands of PET scans to find anatomical patterns in the brain that correlated with psychopathic tendencies in the real world.

“I was looking at many scans, scans of murderers mixed in with schizophrenics, depressives and other, normal brains,” he says. “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.”

James Fallon’s new book, The Psychopath Inside

“I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological,” he says, noting that it showed low activity in certain areas of the frontal and temporal lobes linked to empathy, morality and self-control. Knowing that it belonged to a member of his family, 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.

“When I found out who the scan belonged to, I had to believe there was a mistake. In a fit of pique, I asked the technician to check the scanner and all the notes from the other imaging and database technicians.

But there had been no mistake.

The scan was mine.”

https://books.google.fr/books/about/The_Psychopath_Inside.html

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