A psychopath lacks empathy just like a person with frontal head injury

Jan 25, 2011

People diagnosed as psychopathic have difficulty showing empathy, just like patients who have suffered frontal head injury. This has been shown in a new study from the University of Haifa. "Our findings show that people who have psychopathic symptoms behave as though they are suffering frontal brain damage," said Dr. Simone Shamay-Tsoory, who conducted the study. "Seeing as psychopathic behavior is similar to that of a person with brain damage, it could be that it could benefit from similar forms of treatment."

People diagnosed as psychopathic have difficulty showing , just like patients who have suffered frontal head injury. This has been shown in a new study from the University of Haifa. "Our findings show that people who have psychopathic symptoms behave as though they are suffering frontal brain damage," said Dr. Simone Shamay-Tsoory, who conducted the study.

is a personality disorder that finds expression in extreme anti-social behavior and intentional harm to others, including a lack of compassion and empathy. An existing explanation for such behavior suggests inability to comprehend the existence of emotions in others. However, the fact that many psychopaths act with sophistication and deceit with intention to harm others, indicates that they actually have a good grasp of the mental capacity of others - and are even capable of using that knowledge in order to cause them harm.

Earlier research by Dr. Shamay-Tsoory has examined individuals with frontal head injury, i.e., damage to parts of the brain that are responsible for functioning. She has shown that people suffering this type of brain damage have difficulty showing empathy. Having observed similar emotional deficiency in psychopathic behavior, she set out to see if there is in fact a similarity between the two cases.

The current study assessed 17 people who had been diagnosed by as psychotic – and not suffering from any known brain damage; and another 25 individuals suffering frontal lobe injury. Each of the participants underwent a computerized test examining cognitive ability to recognize feelings in another and the ability to demonstrate empathy for another's emotions. They were also tested to gage their capacity to understand another's thoughts. The results of these tests showed that both groups demonstrated a similar difficulty in showing empathy, while two control groups of individuals with no known mental disorders or brain damage and individuals with non-frontal brain damage both showed different results with positive empathy capabilities.

"Seeing as psychopathic behavior is similar to that of a person with brain damage, it could be that it could benefit from similar forms of treatment," Dr. Shamay-Tsoory noted.

Explore further: In funk music, rhythmic complexity influences dancing desire

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

An underlying cause for psychopathic behavior?

Apr 27, 2010

Psychopaths are known to be characterized by callousness, diminished capacity for remorse, and lack of empathy. However, the exact cause of these personality traits is an area of scientific debate. The results of a new study, ...

Stroke study sheds light on left-right brain divide

Jun 11, 2007

Research into the effects of strokes has furthered our understanding of the different roles of the left and right sides of our brains. A study led by the University of Exeter has highlighted differences in the ability of ...

I feel your pain: Neural mechanisms of empathy

Jan 28, 2009

Is it possible to share a pain that you observe in another but have never actually experienced yourself? A new study uses a sophisticated brain-imaging technique to try and answer this question. The research, published by ...

Recommended for you

Child burn effects far reaching for parents

2 hours ago

Parents of burn victims experience significant psychological distress for at least three months after the incident and may compromise the post-operative recovery of their child, WA research has found.

Internet use may cut retirees' depression

2 hours ago

Spending time online has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to research published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences an ...

Classifying cognitive styles across disciplines

2 hours ago

Educators have tried to boost learning by focusing on differences in learning styles. Management consultants tout the impact that different decision-making styles have on productivity. Various fields have ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JRDarby
5 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2011
"People diagnosed as psychopathic have difficulty showing empathy"

... difficulty showing empathy? Understatement of the century.

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Spate of Mideast virus infections raises concerns

A recent spate of infections from a frequently deadly Middle East virus is raising new worries about efforts to contain the illness, with infectious disease experts urging greater vigilance in combatting ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...