Scientists Create "Psycho Test" To Flush Out Future Ivan Millats

New neurobiological research methods could be used to identify psychopaths before they hit puberty, which could lead to potential serial killers receiving treatment at a young age.

Psycho picture from Shutterstock

Researchers in the UK have discovered patterns of reduced brain activity in children diagnosed with conduct problems (CP) while viewing photos of others in pain. The children's brains were scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as they looked at images of hands and feet in painful situations. The non-reactive regions of the brain, which are known to play a role in empathy, are thought to be a neurobiological risk factor for later adult psychopathy.

We conclude that children with CP have atypical neural responses to others’ pain. The negative association between callous traits and AI/ACC response could reflect an early neurobiological marker indexing risk for empathic deficits seen in adult psychopathy.

According to the report, these early warning signs could be used to treat children more effectively and set them on the right path before they reach adulthood. (Currently, psychotic risk factors are mainly measured via incidents of physical aggression, cruelty to others and a lack of empathy, but little is known about the underlying biology.)

"Our findings indicate that children with conduct problems have an atypical brain response to seeing other people in pain," said head researcher Essi Viding from the University College London.

"It is important to view these findings as an indicator of early vulnerability, rather than biological destiny. We know that children can be very responsive to interventions, and the challenge is to make those interventions even better, so that we can really help the children, their families, and their wider social environment."

The report also discovered lower brain activation in the children that were deemed to be the most callous, which could allow interventions to be tailored to suit the specific profile of each child.

As fMRI screening methodology is refined and perfected, it's not inconceivable that scientists will one day be able to accurately predict the likelihood of a child developing into a serial killer at a granular level. If these psychological defects are incurable, could we end up incarcerating high-risk children before they actually commit any crimes? Minority Report might not be that far-fetched after all.

Association of Callous Traits with Reduced Neural Response to Others’ Pain in Children with Conduct Problems [Current Biology]


Comments

    I'm so adamantly against this.. I know there's supposedly science behind it, but especially in this area - things change so rapidly year to year.. Hell, we're still living in a world where it's accepted as fact that bloodflow to a certain area of the brain means something specific.. Which might be true, but it's unproven, it's just a theory.

    This explicitly could lead to kids having yet another thing branded against them, yet another reason to medicate your kids.. For a problem that someone tells you MIGHT exist one day.. Hell, they go so far here as to say "We know that children can be very responsive to interventions"... How can they be responsive to something where you can't PROVE there's an issue in the first place because it hasn't happened yet?? Statistics used to completely diabolical ends..

    Put it this way, you're say a parent with only one child, you take them to the doctors and they run XYZ tests in line with this research and the results are "positive" for this issue.. The doctor is straight up, "We don't know that it IS a problem but we know it MIGHT be a problem - would you like to get your kid into therapy and give them medications which WILL help if anything is wrong before it goes wrong?"... no nervous parent is going to turn that down..

    Just.. Raise your kids. Deal with the problems as they come up, rather than trying to use sketchy unproven psychological profiling methodologies.

    Last edited 07/05/13 6:50 pm

      For an awesome treatise on the state of the diagnosis issues and all the problems that go along with them, I highly recommend The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (The author of Men Who Stare At Goats).

      Last edited 08/05/13 11:16 am

    Ah, thought crimes.

    The stuff that makes Hetty scream with delight.

    This is what the movie "Minority Report" was about.

    Lifehacker should do an article about this:

    Defense Against the Psychopath (Full length Version)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgGyvxqYSbE

    Our society is full of them

    If only it was as simple as raising your kids in a loving environment.
    Even in fully functional families, there is a dearth of guidance and assistance to confused parents who see the symptoms but do not know how to mitigate them, assuming they haven't just dismissed it as part of growing up, assuming they have the money, assuming their religious convictions don't label it as 'demons' and assuming they actually believe the analysis.

    Back in the real world, what hope has a single mother have of providing her child with the specialist help it needs, whilst working and raising her child ?
    Motherly love does not suddenly make new neural paths magically appear in the brain, regrettably.
    If you really want an insight to the difficulties modern parents have in getting advice, assistance, or even just acceptance, read January First by Michael Shofield.

    When the little girl quietly announces she wants to die, rather than live with her condition, at nine years of age, it highlights just how little the medical community knows about mental illness, and that it is still considered a 'niche' area by a large amount of practitioners.

    Shouldn't we be looking at ways to improve our knowledge, rather than push it away once again ?

    Note: there is quite a gulf between someone being a psychopath and being a serial killer.
    Let's not jump to the cheap and easy, eh Lifehacker - you're usually better than that..

    Helloooo? Has Pavlov and his dogs experiments not been grasped recently?
    Have these "scientists" not heard of cognitive behaviour therapy?
    You can condition humans to almost any reaction given enough repetitive exposure.
    "How?" You may well ask?
    HINT: Games first, movies second.
    Add constant medication of fluoride+chlorine+aluminium hydroxide ( the unholy trinity) (=Prozac (r) and sucrose and you have cognitive shutdown.
    Simple test: Remove the above for 40 days and voila! .............

    Namaste!

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