I left off with a mention of a Neuroscientist involved in a research project at UC Irvine. The project involved reviewing anatomical patterns in the brain that had a connection with psychopathic tendencies.
The Neuroscientist, James Fallon, put together the scans of murderers, schizophrenics, depressives, and people with other brain disorders. He added scans of his family and his own brain because Alzheimer’s ran his family and he was curious about the subject.
One day while looking at a large stack of scans, one stood out more than the others. This scan had clear characteristics of someone with Psychopathic tendencies. He could tell by the color of the label that it was someone from his family he just didn’t know who.
Fallon broke precedent and looked up who the scan belonged to. He was surprised to learn it was his.
Most people probably would’ve hid the information, as a man of science Fallon needed to know more. He had a series of genetic tests done that can indicate a risk for Psychopathic behavior. A variant of the MAO-A gene is linked with aggressive behavior. All of his genetic tests confirmed what the brain scan did.
When I read this all I could think is “How is this possible?”. How is it that a happily married family man could have all the markers of a Psychopath but not be one?
SOME PSYCHOPATHIC TRAITS
- Intentionally angering people to see a reaction
- Psychologically aggressive
- Physically aggressive
- Antisocial Behavior
NATURE VS. NURTURE
There are actually more people like this than you know. A person who has some difficulty feeling true empathy for others, but can still keep their behavior socially acceptable.
Fallon had always known that he sometimes manipulated other people to get what he wanted. He was also motivated by power. His family’s ancestry had 7 alleged murderers including Lizzie Borden.
Before he was born his mother had several miscarriages. He was given a large amount of his parents attention and love.
Here is where it gets complicated. I’ll try not to put you to sleep.
Serotonin Transporter Protein = affects the development of the prefrontal cortex in complex ways. It can make the region more receptive to Environmental Influences.
A positive and loving childhood was a major factor in who James Fallon became.
There is one more ingredient according to Fallon. That’s free will. Fallon is trying to be more conscious of other people’s feelings but also admits some of this has to do with his pride and proving to other people that he can.
It’s difficult to ignore the numbers. The statistics don’t lie. When you see 42% of convicted serial killers suffered from physical abuse as a child and 74% suffered psychological abuse it’s hard to ignore. If you add those numbers to the possibility of their brains having Psychopathic characteristics to begin with than what happens?
I am in NO WAY DEFENDING ANYONE. I am only interested in the brain side of things. The question of what if they had different childhoods? Would they have been the same. There are some serial killers where there is no physical or psychological abuse to be found.
I’m not naïve. Sometimes people are just evil for the sake of being evil. I do know that I had two loving parents who were always there for me if I needed them. Our house, despite the turmoil, was still a loving house. We would fight each other but if anyone else said a bad word it wasn’t going to be pretty. No matter how much I complain about my sister or my dad I wouldn’t be alive without them. My brother taught me some of life’s most important lessons. He also gave me great taste in music. My mother gave me a heart that is too big and her hands. My father gave me his love of animals and his sarcasm or wit. Not necessarily a good thing. The wit part. But I wouldn’t change a thing.