Scanning For Psychopaths

A recent finding by Dirk et al. (2016) used brain scans to show how a combination of individual traits function differently in criminals. Specifically, a strong focus on reward and lack of self-control are linked to the tendency to commit an offence.

There was higher activation within the reward centre in the brains of participants with psychopathic traits (criminal and non-criminal). The difference between criminals and non-criminals arose when they looked at the combination between little self-control and a strong sense of reward sensitivity.

Although the findings were significant, there is a controversy regarding the application of results. Finding a difference in the brain anatomy suggests that perhaps criminality is out of an individual’s conscious control which may then lead to including brain scans as evidence in the courtroom.

For further discussion on the use of brain scans as evidence in trails click here.

Geurts, D., von Borries, K., Volman, I., Bulten, B. H. E., Cools, R., & Verkes, R. J. (2016). Neural connectivity during reward expectation dissociates psychopathic criminals from noncriminal individuals with high impulsive/antisocial psychopathic traits. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, nsw040.

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