How A Psychopath’s Brain is Different

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Researchers from the University of Madison-Wisconsin have recently released a study which proves that the brains of psychopaths have less connections between between the ventromedial frontal cortex. (Source:

We use our ventromedial frontal cortex  for judgement, decision making and social functioning.

In the online article, A Psychopath‘s Brain is Different, Rick Nauert PhD, writes, Diffusion tensor images (DTI) showed reduced structural integrity in the white matter fibers connecting the two areas, while a second type of image that maps brain activity, a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI), showed less coordinated activity between the vmPFC and the amygdala.

“This is the first study to show both structural and functional differences in the brains of people diagnosed with psychopathy,” says Michael Koenigs.

“Those two structures in the brain, which are believed to regulate emotion and social behavior, seem to not be communicating as they should.” (Source:

Dr. Nauert concludes, “The study, published in the most recent Journal of Neuroscience, builds on earlier work by Newman and Koenigs that showed that psychopaths’ decision-making mirrors that of patients with known damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC).

This bolsters evidence that problems in that part of the brain are connected to the disorder.

“The decision-making study showed indirectly what this study shows directly – that there is a specific brain abnormality associated with criminal psychopathy,” Koenigs adds. ” (Source:

For more information about how patients with damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex, read “Deficits in Social Knowledge Following Damage to Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex” republished on PsychiatryOnline from The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2005;17:66-74. 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.17.1.66, written by Linda W.Y. Mah, M.D.; Miriam Courtney Arnold, Ph.D.; Jordan Grafman, Ph. D.

This article describes research to determine how damage to the prefrontal cortex impacted social behavior, including the ability to interpret non verbal emotional expression. (Source: (

Essentially, both persons with damaged prefrontal cortex and folks with Antisocial Personality Disorder have similarly damaged brains.

All the more reason to understand that the psychopath in your life WILL NOT CHANGE. His behavior is not because he isn’t committed or hasn’t made the decision to pull his life together; these types of choices are beyond his brain’s ability. He is acting the way that he does because he’s socially and emotionally limited and can’t behave any other way. It’s who he is.

Accept this and get him or her out of your life!


3 thoughts on “How A Psychopath’s Brain is Different

  1. What kind of impact do you think this research has on the idea of rehabilitation, the death penalty, etc? We aren’t going to be able to “fix” these brains… so do we take this as needing to be more compassionate for people being incapable given their brains or less compassionate because they will always be that way?

    • You pose an excellent question. Being brand new to the study of psychopathic (and narcissistic) brain differences, I have just started to think about how this phenomenon relates to the idea of rehabilitation, etc. We can’t fix them, but we do need to limit their ability to harm others. I predict that in the future we will see this subject coming to the forefront of the justice system. We need to be humane, but we must control the damage these individuals can cause if we know that they have ASPD. It would make the most sense to keep these folks in prison for life or for very long sentences once they had committed violent crimes, but I suppose that right now that would be considered unfair if they were incarcerated longer than other prisoners who did not have ASPD.

  2. Pingback: Antisocial Personality Disorder 101 « Phoenix Rising

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