Friday, July 7, 2017

Probing Psychopathic Brains #Science #Psychology

The focus in the article is not political and it remains for the interested student to discover the basis for America's predilection for electing psychopaths or at least sociopaths.  If it's political sociopaths you want to find then take a look at Clay Huggins instead.  (Ithaka: What Kind of Beauty Can There Ever Be With Animals Like Clay Huggins Loose #Political #Holocaust)

This type of pursuit has always been scary to me since there's some wild thinking of what if it rubs off; what if this makes me one of them.  Since I'm now sixty-six, any concern about being someone who does things of that nature is minimal since the only thing likely to come when I'm in possession of a knife is dinner ... unless I cut myself with it as I have done quite spectacularly from time to time although never deliberately; simple incompetence was enough.

Psychopaths' brains are wired in a way that leads them to over-value immediate rewards and neglect the future consequences of potentially dangerous or immoral actions, research concludes.

Credit: © peshkov / Fotolia

How about that for the looniest portrayal of a psychopath you may ever see.

An Associate Professor of Psychology, Buckholtz is the senior author of a study that relies on brain scans of nearly 50 prison inmates to help explain why psychopaths make poor decisions that often lead to violence or other anti-social behavior.

What they found, he said, is psychopath's brains are wired in a way that leads them to over-value immediate rewards and neglect the future consequences of potentially dangerous or immoral actions. The study is described in a July 5 paper in Neuron.

Science Daily:  Probing psychopathic brains

When stabbing a woman multiple times because you get sexual pleasure out of it is described as a poor decision, we're afraid of you, Herr Doktor Buckholtz.

"And even though psychopaths are often portrayed as cold-blooded, almost alien predators, we have been showing that their emotional deficits may not actually be the primary driver of these bad choices. Because it's the choices of psychopaths that cause so much trouble, we've been trying to understand what goes on in their brains when the make decisions that involve trade-offs between the costs and benefits of action.," he continued. "In this most recent paper...we are able to look at brain-based measures of reward and value and the communication between different brain regions that are involved in decision making."

- SD

Psychopathy in a brain scan and you know this is going to get strange.

Obtaining the scans used in the study, however, was no easy feat -- where most studies face an uphill battle in bringing subjects into the lab, Buckholtz's challenge was in bringing the scanner to his subjects.

The solution came in form of a "mobile" scanner -- typically used for cancer screenings in rural areas -- that came packed in the trailer of a tractor trailer. After trucking the equipment to a two medium-security prisons in Wisconsin, the team -- which included collaborators at the University of Wisconin-Madison and University of New Mexico -- would spend days calibrating the scanner, and then work to scan as many volunteers as possible as quickly as possible.

"It was a huge undertaking," he said. "Most MRI scanners, they're not going anywhere, but in this case, we're driving this inside a prison and then in very quick succession we have to assess and scan the inmates."

- SD

You have seen the type of kit in hospitals so imagine packing that up on the flatbed of your F-250 to port it around.  No problem with that, I'm sure.

The team ultimately scanned the brains of 49 inmates over two hours as they took part in a type of delayed gratification test which asked them to choose between two options -- receive a smaller amount of money immediately, or a larger amount at a later time. The results of those tests were then fit to a model that allowed researchers to create a measure of not only how impulsive each participant's behavior was, but to identify brain regions that play a role in assessing the relative value of such choices.

What they found, Buckholtz said, was people who scored high for psychopathy showed greater activity in a region called the ventral striatum -- known to be involved in evaluating the subjective reward -- for the more immediate choice.

- SD

It appears they not only identified the physical locus for psychopathy but were watching it in action.

The interested student is invited to review the article for additional regarding the physical aspects of tracing the behaviors but you will likely find it fascinating if such things are near your field of interest.

The effect was so pronounced, Buckholtz said, that researchers were able to use the degree of connection between the striatum and the prefrontal cortex to accurately predict how many times inmates had been convicted of crimes.

Ultimately, Buckholtz said, his goal is to erase the popular image of psychopaths as incomprehensible, cold-blooded monsters and see them for what they are -- everyday humans whose brains are simply wired differently.

- SD

The predictive aspect of the study is startling so there's one reason for further research.  However, the last aspect of identifying psychopaths as everyday humans is fantasy.  When we see a psychopath licking his lips as he relives the telling of how he killed some woman, it's not likely we will ever regard such people as anything approaching human.

However, we take the professor's point and what if such behavior can be predicted before the psychopath actually commits some heinous crime.

The closer is mostly a Hallmark greeting card.

"They're not aliens, they're people who make bad decisions," he said. "The same kind of short-sighted, impulsive decision-making that we see in psychopathic individuals has also been noted in compulsive over-eaters and substance abusers. If we can put this back into the domain of rigorous scientific analysis, we can see psychopaths aren't inhuman, they're exactly what you would expect from humans who have this particular kind of brain wiring dysfunction."

- SD

Our interest in psychopaths is largely due to the wish to avoid being stabbed by them.  Intellectualizing the matter isn't likely to change that fact much.  However, the question remains ... what if we can detect them prior to commission of any significant crime.  It appears there's some potential that capability is or soon will be available.

Now what, mates?

No comments: