Neurological Correlates is 3! (Almost). Plus: The Trifecta of the Psychopath Brain

Neurological Correlates was born September 11, 2007, and we immediately declared that September the “seven deadly sins month,” and started slogging our way through the literature on why psychopaths (sociopaths) are . . . you know, that way. Well, we may be almost there.

We now can add a new feature to the psychopath brain, a cavum septum pellucidum (see the midline area):

Cavum septum pellucidum

Raine A, Lee L, Yang Y, Colletti P. Neurodevelopmental marker for limbic maldevelopment in antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy. Br J Psychiatry. 197:186-92. (September 2010):

Those with CSP [the big midline gap] had significantly higher levels of antisocial personality, psychopathy, arrests and convictions compared with controls. The pervasiveness of this association was indicated by the fact that those lacking a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, but who were charged or convicted for an offence, had a more extensive CSP than non-antisocial controls. Results could not be attributed to prior trauma exposure, head injury, demographic factors or comorbid psychiatric conditions.

Psychopaths find introspection difficult if not a useless exercise, and having midline emptiness could (we guess) be the problem.  If the brain is like a shelled walnut, introspection seems correlated to the region where one half faces the other — right along the midline, in the front.  This is one of the last areas to fully develop anatomically, and this mid-line immaturity shows up in a lot of clinically diagnosed conditions, like fetal alcohol. A quick PUBMED search for “cavum septum pellucidum” showed reports for OCD, schizophrena, neurotraumas and some other more rare conditions that we haven’t heard of before.

And so, the trifecta of roiling awfulness in the psychopath brain:

1. Disconnected uncinate fasciculus , between the limbic system and the frontal lobes (and see this recent report, this white matter tract feeds right into the reward circuits),

2. Ginormous striatum hugry for dopamine (and see this recent report, psychopaths supersize the dopamine response to amphetamines, indicating hypersensitivity to rewards);

3. Brain midline problem, the cavum septum pellucidum reported above, possibly indicating limited introspective ability.

That about covers it — the unbridled rages with no frontal lobe cooling off (because of the white matter disconnnect), the hunger for power because of the big striatum – and not a hunger for love because that wiring is disconnected, and the lack of compassion, based on the brain midline malformation.

We posited hedgehog protein and retinoic acid as the culprits in abnormal neural development leading to mid-brain awfulness, but it doesn’t really matter. What is, is.

What matters is that these are anatomical correlates that can be quantified and measured and provide a basis for determining who to put in positions of power.  Having introspection and at least some level of empathy/compassion is required for leading large groups of people to better things; if people’s brains don’t let them do this then they shouldn’t be in a position of power.