The neuroscientist who discovered he was a psychopath
"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."
"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.
Many of us would hide this discovery and never tell a soul, out of fear or embarrassment of being labeled a psychopath. Perhaps because boldness and disinhibition are noted psychopathic tendencies, Fallon has gone all in towards the opposite direction, telling the world about his finding in a TED Talk, an NPR interview and now a new book published last month, The Psychopath Inside. In it, Fallon seeks to reconcile how he - a happily married family man - could demonstrate the same anatomical patterns that marked the minds of serial killers.
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One day in 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon was casually leafing through the PET scans of serial killers. As one does. He was doing research at UC Irvine and was trying to figure out which aspects of brain anatomy contribute to psychopathy. He also had brain scans of all his family members on his desk for an unrelated Alzheimer's study.
( via blogs.smithsonianmag.com )