Monday, December 18, 2017

Parents nurturing love saves man with brain of a psychopath

James Fallon
June 2, 2014

I first discovered my “hidden” psychopathy in 2006 during a series of scientific and clinical studies of murderers and patients with psychopathy and schizophrenia, as well as a separate imaging genetics study of Alzheimer’s disease in which I happened to be a control subject.

In that study, we were more than a little surprised to find that I had the brain imaging pattern and genetic make up of a full-blown psychopath. But it wasn’t until 2010, following a public talk in a University of Oslo symposium on bipolar disorder, that I first took my psychopathic traits seriously.

Upon returning to my home in Southern California, I started to ask people close to me what they really thought of me, and if they believed me to be psychopathic. And tell me they did.
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The people who knew me well, including family, friends and psychiatrists who examined me all, with the exception of my mother (who later relented and told me secrets of my early life problems that she had kept to herself for over 50 years), finally told me what they felt about my psychopathic behaviors. When tested for psychopathy, I consistently scored as a “pro-social” psychopathic, and borderline to being a categorical psychopath.


But why, in the light of the fact I have all of the biological markers for psychopathy, including a turned off limbic system, the high risk genetic alleles, and the attendant behaviours, including well over half of those listed in the psychopathy tests and low emotional empathy, did I turn out to be a successful professor and family man? One most likely reason is that although I have the genetic makeup of a “born” psychopath, some of those very same “risk” genes in someone showered with love (versus abuse or abandonment), from childbirth through the critical first few years of life, appear to offset the psychopathy-inducing effects of the other “risk” genes.

This is why I tell my 97 year old mother that the book I wrote about a young boy who could have turned out to be quite a danger to society is just about someone who will do anything to beat you in a game of Scrabble, or follow you into a deadly cave. She still doesn’t realise that the book is not about me, it is about her.

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