Neuroscientist Discovers that He is a Psychopath
Since mental illnesses have been relatively difficult to study due to the complexity of the brain, researchers have relied heavily on brain scans and imaging technology. Based from these studies, researchers have identified different patterns in the brain that help differentiate healthy brains from brains that are afflicted with mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression. Researchers have also found distinctive patterns for psychopaths. In a new book, a well-respected neuroscientist revealed that his own scans suggest that he is a psychopath.
James Fallon, a researcher and faculty member from the University of California, Irvine discovered that he could be considered a psychopath based on his brain scans. He published his findings in a book titled "The Psychopath Inside." The book details his research into PET (positron emission tomography) scans. He was examining the scans of murderers and schizophrenics, and compared them to normal brains. By comparing the scans, researchers could discover more about how the brain functions in different people. For example, in psychopaths, the brain regions responsible for empathy, morality and self-control could be impaired and would exhibit reduced activity.
"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," Fallon said according to FOX News. "I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological."
Fallon was shocked to see that the scan belonged to him. He added, "I've never killed anybody, or raped anyone. So the first think I thought was that maybe my hypothesis was wrong, and that these brain areas are not reflective of psychopathy or murderous behavior."
Despite Fallon's clean history, the same cannot be said for his ancestors. Through his connection with his family, Fallon is related to people who have been linked to a total of seven alleged murders. Fallon is related to Lizzie Borden, who was acquitted of killing her father and stepmother back in 1892, and Thomas Cornell, who was reportedly hanged over 300 years ago for murdering his mother. Based on these ties, Fallon dug deeper into his lineage.
"I had all these high-risk alleles for aggression, violence and low empathy," Fallon
"I'm obnoxiously competitive. I won't let my grandchildren win games...and I do jerky things that piss people off. But while I'm aggressive...my aggression is sublimated. I'd rather beat someone in an argument than beat them up."
Fallon argued that his loving environment could have overpowered his genetics.
Fallon added, "I've more consciously been doing things that are considered 'the right thing to do,' and thinking more about other people's feelings... At the same time, I'm not doing this because I'm suddenly nice, I'm doing it because of pride -- because I want to show to everyone and myself that I can pull it off."