Critical Psychology and Mental Health Research

Distinct Phenotype for Psychopathy/Sociopathy

Reduced GM [ grey matter ] volume within areas implicated in empathic processing, moral reasoning, and processing of prosocial emotions such as guilt and embarrassment may contribute to the profound abnormalities of social behavior observed in psychopathy.

Evidence of robust structural brain differences between persistently violent men with and without psychopathy adds to the evidence that psychopathy represents a distinct phenotype. This knowledge may facilitate research into the etiology of persistent violent behavior.

I think its important to make distinctions between what we consider conventionally anti-social (the gangster) and psychopathic/ sociopathic (the serial killer). This is feasible given the advances made with tools to measure neuro-correlates. Neuroethics is a cool emergent field.

Neural Correlates of Antisocial Behavior/Personality

Key areas found to be functionally or structurally impaired in antisocial populations include dorsal and ventral regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), amygdala, hippocampus, angular gyrus, anterior cingulate and temporal cortex. Regions most commonly activated in moral judgment tasks consist of the polar/medial and ventral PFC, amygdala, angular gyrus and posterior cingulate. It is hypothesized that the rule-breaking behavior common to antisocial, violent and psychopathic individuals is in part due to impairments in some of the structures (dorsal and ventral PFC, amygdala and angular gyrus) subserving moral cognition and emotion. Impairments to the emotional component that comprises the feeling of what is moral is viewed as the primary deficit in antisocials, although some disruption to the cognitive and cognitive-emotional components of morality (particularly self-referential thinking and emotion regulation) cannot be ruled out. While this neurobiological predisposition is likely only one of several biosocial processes involved in the etiology of antisocial behavior, it raises significant moral issues for the legal system and neuroethics.


Raine & Yang (2006)

Journal of Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience 1(3):203-13

"Nihilism is disappointed seriousness which has turned back upon itself."

(Isn’t this the essence of disillusionment? )

-Simone deBeauvoir

The Ethics of Ambiguity

(via projectivism)