“Psychopaths’ Lack Of Empathy Has Neurological Basis, Study Shows”

When the highly psychopathic individuals imagined the accidents happening to themselves, their brains lit up in the anterior insula, the anterior midcingulate cortex, the somatosensory cortex and the right amygdala — all areas involved in empathy. The response was quite pronounced, suggesting psychopathic individuals were sensitive to thoughts of pain.

But when the highly psychopathic inmates imagined the accident happening to others, their brains failed to light up in the regions associated with empathy. In fact, an area involved in pleasure, the ventral striatum, lit up instead. Furthermore, these individuals showed abnormal connectivity between the insula and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area important for empathetic decision-making.

By contrast, the less psychopathic individuals showed more normal brain activation and connectivity in these areas.

The strange patterns of brain activation and connectivity in highly psychopathic individuals suggest they did not experience empathy when imagining the pain of others, and possibly took pleasure in it.

The findings could help inform intervention programs for psychopathy, the researchers say. Having psychopathic people imagine themselves in pain first could be used in cognitive behavior therapies as a way of kick-starting empathy, they wrote in the study detailed today (Sept. 24) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

In fact, past research has shown psychopaths can feel empathy, when explicitly asked to, suggesting this ability to understand another person’s feelings may be repressed rather than missing entirely in psychopathic individuals.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/psychopaths-empathy-neurological-basis-brain_n_3984515.html)  (Bolding added.)

The last two paragraphs are very funny.  Psychopaths understand others’ feelings exactly, that’s what they pay attention to,  they are tuned in to them much more than non-psychopaths are, that’s how they know how to emotionally torture their victims.  In fact they could be called empaths but without empathy.  It’s knowledge and understanding.  Empathy they can never have.  They would have no trouble pretending to have empathy however.  This is important work but these scientists are either naives or psychopaths themselves, I don’t understand their conclusions.

Preaching love to the loveless is a losing strategy

Dr. Gabor Maté on ADHD, Bullying and the Destruction of American Childhood

The bully is just a kid who is emotionally very immature, has a desperate need to belong, and the way he attempts to do so is by exploiting somebody else’s vulnerability. But these are not deliberate behaviors, so they don’t call for punishments. What they call for is the understanding of where bullying arises out of.  http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/24/dr_gabor_mat_on_adhd_bullying

I simultaneously thought his comments were both excellent and deeply flawed.

He is totally unaware of or disbelieving in sociopathy (as a genetic, dichotomous form of humanity).  He very well lays out how empathy can be destroyed, how faux sociopaths can be created but doesn’t allow for the existence of those born without empathy or the possibility of developing it.  True sociopaths lead, set the bar, set the example for the faux sociopaths.  Bullying and other morally corrupt/damaged empathy social problems have two aspects — but the sociopathic side is totally ignored.

We need some high profile humanists to publicly recognize the problem of sociopathy, to say that we simply aren’t all brothers and sisters under the skin.  I used to read Alice Miller, Robert Bradshaw, etc.  They neither ever mentioned sociopathy, nor seemed to feel there was some motivation, some force in the tragedies of their patients and subjects that they couldn’t account for.  Though looking back I definitely see psychopathic individuals described in their writings.

On one hand Gabor Mate is a very deep thinker, on the other hand what he says is common sense.  Why has this common sense been so ignored or even smashed in our era?  Enlightened, deeply humanistic common sense has lost out to a sociopathic simple-mindedness, greed and ego-driven self-serving lack of understanding of others.  Surely he sees that, yet he can’t see that true sociopaths are the cause of his own defeat.  Preaching love to the loveless is a losing strategy.