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How a Scientist Researching Serial Killers Found Out He's a Psychopath...in His Own Brain Scan


“I was loved, and that protected me."

Neuroscientist James Fallon was looking at brain scans trying to better understand the inner workings of psychopathic minds.

“I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological," Fallon told Smithsonian magazine in a recent interview.

It turns out, that brain scan was his own.

jim fallon Jim Fallon speaks about his research and discovering that his own brain showed he was a psychopath. (Image source: TED)

Fallon made this revelation in 2005. The scans of his brains and those of his family members were taken for a separate study on Alzheimer's. But when he was researching serial killers and found his own scan resembled some of the brains of those people, it took him down a road of understanding how one can have a psychopathic mind without committing atrocious acts.

Watch Fallon's TED talk from 2009 about his own discovery and analyzing the minds of killers:

Since this unsettling discovery, Fallon has reconciled how his genetic code, which gives him a higher chance of "aggression, violence and low empathy," has not influenced his lifestyle in a negative way.

“I’ve never killed anybody, or raped anyone,” he told Smithsonian. “So the first thing I thought was that maybe my hypothesis was wrong, and that these brain areas are not reflective of psychopathy or murderous behavior.”

But further genetic analysis confirmed that he was a psychopath -- just not that bad of a psychopath. Fallon called it being a "pro-social psychopath." This is someone who has a hard time feeling empathy but who still maintains socially acceptable behavior.

Though he might not be a murderer, Fallon said his genetic predisposition toward psychopathic behavior does manifest itself in other ways.

“I’m obnoxiously competitive. I won’t let my grandchildren win games," he told Smithsonian. “But while I’m aggressive, but my aggression is sublimated. I’d rather beat someone in an argument than beat them up.”

Smithsonian reported that Fallon might have had some mental preparation for his self-diagnosis as a psychopath. He has seven alleged murders as relatives, including the infamous Lizzie Borden.

But what might have given Fallon a more gentle personality despite his genetic odds? The scientist credited his upbringing.

“I was loved, and that protected me,” he told Smithsonian.

He also said that since finding out more about his brain and genetics, he has made more conscious decisions to curb overly aggressive behavior.

“At the same time, I’m not doing this because I’m suddenly nice, I’m doing it because of pride—because I want to show to everyone and myself that I can pull it off," he said showing off some of his competitive personality.

Fallon describes coming to terms with these findings in his new book The Psychopath InsideRead more of Fallon's interview with Smithsonian.


Featured image via Shutterstock.


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