By: By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
Published: 07/24/2013 07:21 PM
Psychopaths may be capable of empathizing with others in some situations, a new study has found.
The study's researchers investigated the brain activity of psychopathic criminals in the Netherlands. As expected, the psychopaths' brains showed less empathy than mentally healthy individuals while watching others experience pain or affection. But when asked to empathize, the psychopaths appeared to show normal levels of empathy, suggesting the ability to understand another's feelings and thoughts may be repressed in these individuals rather than missing entirely.
"Psychopaths can be sometimes very charming and socially cunning, and other times be callous and perform atrocities," said study researcher Christian Keysers, a neuroscientist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
When healthy people see others perform an action, that observation turns on "action" areas of their own brain -- known as the mirror neuron system. Similarly, when people experience pain or pleasure, they mimic these feelings in their own brains, too, Keysers told LiveScience.