Is sociopathy congenital or acquired

Psychopaths: Characteristic Features of the Brain

Can personality traits and disorders be identified from the structure of the brain? Lately there have been increasing reports that this is possible to a limited extent. For example, neuroscientists working with Elsa Ermer from the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, USA) are now reporting that the brain of psychopaths has some peculiarities compared to the brain of non-psychopaths. They found this out by measuring the brains of 296 prisoners using voxel-based morphometry. To do this, they used images of the brain that were obtained by magnetic resonance imaging. They found that in psychopaths, gray matter is very often reduced in some areas of the limbic and paralimbic system, such as the bilateral parahippocampus, the amygdala, and the orbitofrontal cortex. From this the authors conclude that these areas play a role in empathy, social responsibility and conscience, because psychopaths completely lack such skills and impulses. Findings such as these raise the question of whether computer-aided examinations of the brain are so informative and reliable that conventional diagnostic methods for determining personality disorders can be dispensed with in the future. On the other hand, the question arises whether psychopaths are to blame for their condition and can be held accountable for their actions, since they apparently suffer from an innate or acquired change in the brain for which they are not responsible. In addition, the question arises whether there are methods with which the affected brain areas can be normalized again and the psychopathy can be cured. ms

Ermer E, Cope L, Calhoun V, Nyalakanti P, Kiehl K: Aberrant paralimbic gray matter in criminal psychopathy. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 2012; 121 (3): 649-58. MEDLINE