The Psychopath Neuroscientist

The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath

Neuroscientist James Fallon knows what a psychopathic brain scan looks like, because he’s studied the differences in brain activity between normal brains and those of people with various anomalies and impairments. While studying scans of his own family members in a study of Alzheiner’s disease, he recognized one that had all the hallmarks of a psychopath. His curiosity got the best of him, and he looked up who it was. It was his own brain scan.

Fallon is a stable and successful scientist and is happily married. But he still recognized his own difficulties with feeling empathy for others. Does his own life mean that psychopaths can go unnoticed and lead successful lives?

“I’m obnoxiously competitive. I won’t let my grandchildren win games. I’m kind of an asshole, and I do jerky things that piss people off,” he says. “But while I’m aggressive, but my aggression is sublimated. I’d rather beat someone in an argument than beat them up.”

Why has Fallon been able to temper his behavior, while other people with similar genetics and brain turn violent and end up in prison? Fallon was once a self-proclaimed genetic determinist, but his views on the influence of genes on behavior have evolved. He now believes that his childhood helped prevent him from heading down a scarier path.

“I was loved, and that protected me,” he says. Partly as a result of a series of miscarriages that preceded his birth, he was given an especially heavy amount of attention from his parents, and he thinks that played a key role.

Fallon’s experience highlights the delicate balance between nature and nurture. Read more of his story at Smithsonian’s Surprising Science blog


Key Terms…
  • brain ↔ cérebro
  • impairments ↔ deficiências
  • scans ↔ tomografia
  • the hallmarks of ↔ as características de
  • His curiosity got the best of him ↔ A curiosidade dele o impulsionou (“venceu”)
  • looked up ↔ procurou para saber
  • can go unnoticed ↔ pode passar despercebida
  • obnoxiously ↔ ofensivamente
  • asshole ↔ babaca
  • jerky ↔ acting like a “jerk”
  • piss people off ↔ irritar as pessoas
  • I’d rather ↔ Prefiro
  • beat someone in an argument ↔ vencer numa discussão
  • beat them up ↔ espancá-los
  • temper ↔ moderar, controlar
  • behavior ↔ comportamento
  • self-proclaimed ↔ autoproclamado
  • prevent him from heading down ↔ impedi-lo de seguir
  • scarier ↔ mais assustador
  • Partly ↔ Parcialmente
  • miscarriages ↔ abortos naturais
  • an especially heavy amount ↔ uma quantidade especialmente grande
  • a key role ↔ um papel fundamental
  • highlights ↔ destaca
  • nature and nurture ↔ natureza e criação


impairments deficiências
speech impairment ↔distúrbio da fala
Permanent impairment, Permanent disability ↔Incapacidade permanente
the hallmarks of as características de
Isn’t chomping on fast-food in the car one of the hallmarks of the modern age?  
This human is showing all the hallmarks of a bad commander, I wonder why these Orcs follow him
Warm sun, white sand, and clear waters: all the hallmarks of a beautiful, tropical island
A distinguishing characteristic.
His curiosity got the best of him A curiosidade dele o impulsionou (“venceu”)
Then curiosity got the best of her and she stepped out onto her front porch.  
So curiosity got the best of me and I followed you into the room.  
This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her.  
Curiosity got the best of them, they turned the truck around to get a second look at the hitchhiker.  
Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to check my mail.  
asshole babaca
A thoroughly contemptible, detestable person.
While this term is not gender-specific, it is primarily applied to men; bitch is more often used for women.

Asshole is mainly used as a bad word towards someone that the speaker does not like. Men are often called asshole more than women, who are often called cunts instead.

You could not say “asshole” on normal television in the US until the early 1990s, but it was sometimes in PG-13 and R rated films before this.

E os caras-de-pau tinham coragem de negar. ↔And the assholes had the nerve to pretend it didnt happen.
jerky acting like a “jerk”
Some definitions of “jerk”…
Jerks are selfish, manipulative bastards who see women as little more then sexual conquests to brag about to their buddies or mere objects that are there for their personal pleasure. As to ensure the post-sex breakup will be in their favor, Jerks often play the “sensative guy” early on so the girl will make most of the moves on HIM, and after he’s done with her and dumps her for some other girl just like her, he can make it look like she’s at fault for coming on too strong, and consequently she’ll take him back if he chooses to return for seconds.
An idiot or stupid person. An insensitive, selfish, ignorant, cocky person who is inconsiderate and does stupid things.
A mean/heartless person.
A person with unlikable or obnoxious qualities and behavior, typically mean, self-centered, or disagreeable.
piss people off irritar as pessoas
You don’t like hockey! The only reason you say you do is to piss me off!
Hey, you know what, Steve? You’re really starting to piss me off.
temper moderar, controlar
to make more temperate, acceptable, or suitable by adding something else; moderate
De princípio é errado exigir que um país que possui um elevado padrão nesta área seja obrigado a desagravar os seus requisitos no sagrado nome da harmonização da UE. ↔It is wrong in principle to require countries with high standards in this area to temper their demands in the holy name of EU harmonisation.
miscarriages abortos naturais
She had a miscarriage in the 4th month. ↔ela sofreu um aborto natural no quarto mês
an especially heavy amount uma quantidade especialmente grande
I’d also add that most foreign aid programs have a heavy amount of oversight.  
Forecasters do not expect a heavy amount of snow for Denver from the approaching storm.  
nature and nurture natureza e criação
Like most behaviors, being a picky eater is a balance between nature and nurture.  
In one important sense, the argument over nature and nurture has been resolved.  
The old answer is that these things are a combination of nature and nurture.  
David Eagleman explains that nature and nurture cause all criminal behavior.  


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