UBC Theses and Dissertations
Cerebral asymmetry in psychopaths : a behavioural and electrocortical investigation Mills, Rebecca Mary Isabel
Researchers studying forensic psychopathology have been searching for biological explanations for the socially costly and puzzling disorder, psychopathy. This dissertation attempts to replicate and expand upon previous findings that psychopaths have unusually lateralized brains. In the first of two studies, 12 psychopathic and 12 nonpsychopathic incarcerated men completed three verbal tasks chosen to capitalize on lateralized cognition. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were measured during the tasks to approximate magnitude, location, and timing of cortical activation. In Study 2, participants completed four nonverbal tasks. Overall patterns of lateralized performance and electrocortical activity suggest that psychopaths use unusual strategies and/or brain areas to process information with no apparent decrements in performance. It appears that psychopaths have diffusely organized brains for a wide variety of cognitions, rendering them incapable of integrating emotional and verbal information. As a result, they may be unable to follow social norms or develop meaningful relationships with others, while appearing intellectually normal.