Psychopaths and Callous Children Show Dysfunctional Brain Responses to People In Pain

Children who cruelly disregard other people’s pain and psychopathic criminal offenders show dysfunction in similar brain regions— but new research finds that the changes may lead in opposite directions.


Two new studies add to conflicting literature that sometimes shows reduced activation in some nodes of a brain network involved in emotion and at other times enhanced activity. What the researchers can agree on is that the same critical circuits go awry when people who are exceptionally callous and brutal witness the pain of others…


“It is clearly an important study for advancing our understanding of empathy difficulties in adults with psychopathy,” says Essi Viding, professor of developmental psychopathology at University College London and lead author of the second study. 

by Maia Szalavitz