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Psychopaths' Lack of Empathy Mimics Brain Injury: Research

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- People who have suffered a frontal brain injury have been known to have difficulty showing empathy, and new research shows that people diagnosed as psychopathic also have the same emotional deficiency.

The finding suggests that psychopaths may benefit from therapy similar to that used to treat frontal brain injury patients, said the researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by extreme anti-social behavior and intention to harm others. Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another person's feelings and thoughts.

The study included 17 people who had been diagnosed as psychotic and did not have any brain damage, along with 25 patients with a frontal lobe brain injury. All of the participants were tested to determine their ability to show empathy and all of them demonstrated a similar difficulty in this area.

"Seeing as psychopathic behavior is similar to that of a person with brain damage, it could be that it could benefit from similar forms of treatment," study author Dr. Simone Shamay-Tsoory said in a university news release.

More information

Mental Health America looks at personality disorders.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Haifa, news release, Jan. 25, 2011

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