The Psychopath Inside:
A Neuroscientist's Journey Into The Dark Side of the Brain
Author: Dr James Fallon
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Current Hardcover
Rating: 4 Stars
“The last scan in the pile was strikingly odd. In fact it looked exactly like the most abnormal of the scans I had just been writing about, suggesting that the poor individual it belonged to was a psychopath—or at least shared an uncomfortable amount of traits with one....When I found out who the scan belonged to, I had to believe there was a mistake....But there had been no mistake. The scan was mine.”
For the first fifty-eight years of his life James Fallon was by all appearances a normal guy. A successful neuroscientist and medical school professor, he’d been raised in a loving, supportive family, married his high school sweetheart, and had three kids and lots of friends.
Then he learned a shocking truth that would not only disrupt his personal and professional life, but would lead him to question the very nature of his own identity.
The Psychopath Inside tells the fascinating story of Fallon’s reaction to the discovery that he has the brain of a psychopath. While researching serial murderers, he uncovered a distinct neurological pattern in their brain scans that helped explain their cold and violent behavior. A few months later he learned that he was descended from a family with a long line of murderers which confirmed that Fallon’s own brain pattern wasn’t a fluke.
As a scientist convinced that humans are shaped by their genetics, Fallon set out to reconcile the truth about his brain with everything he knew about the mind, behavior, and the influence of nature vs. nurture on our personalities. How could he, a successful scientist and a happy family man with no history of violence, be a psychopath? How much did his biology influence his behavior? Was he capable of some of the gruesome atrocities perpetrated by the serial killers he had studied?
Combining his personal experience with scientific analysis, Fallon shares his journey and the discoveries that ultimately led him to that, despite everything science can teach us, humans are even more complex than we can imagine. -Goodreads
While Dr. Fallon makes very valid and well expressed points for both the "nature" and "nurture" camps of the "origin and propagation of psychopathy" debate. It is his meticulous research, coupled with a very concise conveyance of his findings to the layperson at large, that keeps one reading.
The parts of the book having to do with his early years and family life are surprisingly routine for the possessor of both a brain and a proven genetic linage seemingly "wired for sound" as it were, in the "psycho at large department".
From all indications, it seems that it takes a Molotov cocktail recipe including such elements as: childhood abuse, environmental stressors, genetic predisposition, and specific patterns of brain area function and/or dysfunction to create the much publicized brand of psychopathic evil that we all know and fear.
Because Dr. Fallon's knowledge of his field of study is so vast, one can easily forgive his frequent lapses into tedious bouts of name dropping and preening to which it seems men of his accomplished state and renown are often prone.
In short, this book is both a scientific and personal journey...not a destination. As with any trip, there are bound to be both "must see" sights and seemingly endless miles of road. If you are a reader fascinated by the mystery of the human mind, or if you just have a few questions about weird Uncle Fred. The Psychopath Inside may just be your next "must read".