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The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain [Hardcover]

James Fallon
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 5 2013
“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 understand that, despite everything science can teach us, humans are even more complex than we can imagine.

Frequently Bought Together

The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain + Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight + Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
Price For All Three: CDN$ 50.33


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Review

The Psychopath Inside is a deeply compelling personal story of an eminent scien­tist’s discovery of his own psychopathy. Jim Fallon confesses the sins of his biology and in doing so receives the absolution of being human. I couldn’t put it down.”
—PAUL J. ZAK, PhD, author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity

“As comprehensive as it is compelling, essential reading for understanding the genetic and neuroscience underpinnings of psychopathy.”
—M. E. THOMAS, author of Confessions of a Sociopath

“Just the word ‘psychopath’ is enough to grab anyone’s attention and it has inspired numerous TV shows and films for many decades. In truth, I believe the word itself does little to wrap its arms around the infinite behavioral traits psychopaths pos­sess, for good and bad. Fallon lets us inside his mind as he takes us on a deftly woven journey, breaking down every convention of psychopathic behavior.”
—SIMON MIRREN, former executive producer of Criminal Minds

“In a thought-provoking account of self-exploration, Fallon puts himself ‘under the microscope’ in an attempt to make sense of how his own biological and developmental history has shaped his life. His perspective on psychopathy pushes us to consider the important roles of nature and nurture, and the fine line between adaptive and mal­adaptive personality traits.”
—JOHN F. EDENS, PhD, professor of psychology, director of clinical training, and Cornerstone Faculty Fellow, College of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M University

"An intriguing look into the dark side of the brain. A must-read for anyone curious about why our brains think our darkest thoughts and how many of us go into states of psychosis without even realizing it. Dr. Fallon's study of my own brain helped me come to terms with my strangest ideas and why I function the way I do.  Few people understand the brain as well as Dr. Fallon, and can write about it in such a fun and engaging way.  A fascinating read."
—ELI ROTH, writer, director, and producer
 
“Absorbing, insightful and quirky”
Kirkus

“His surprising final diagnosis could broaden the way we see normality.”
Nature journal

About the Author

James Fallon is an award-winning neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, where he has taught neuroscience to medical students, graduate students, and clinicians in psychiatry and neurology for thirty-five years. His start-up company, NeuroRepair, was voted top new biotech firm of the year by a national association of its peers and has engineered major breakthroughs in stem-cell research. He has been married to his wife for forty-four years and has three children.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good read July 1 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written and very interesting . . . the writter describes how he discover who he was and how it changed his life. it was a great read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book review April 28 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Really great read, this subject fascinates me do any new books on the subject are great. I hope more reading becomes available.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Facinating March 9 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book fascinating. There is so much information, it has to be read several times. I think I have met several psychopaths and people that are bi-polar.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  98 reviews
275 of 319 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Superficial, simplistic and self-serving Oct. 31 2013
By Karen Franklin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Psychopath Inside revolves around a single event. It began in 2004, when the author, a retired professor of anatomy and neurobiology, was asked by controversial psychiatrist Daniel Amen to analyze PET brain scans of about 50 killers. Amen had characterized some of his subjects as impulsive killers; others, as psychopaths. When Fallon did a blind analysis, he was able to distinguish between the two groups based on the psychopaths' pattern of brain activation. Primarily, they showed a diminished level of activity in the limbic cortex, which regulates emotion. (While not giving precise data on his accuracy, the never-modest author assures us that he "nailed it.") The following year, he discovered by happenstance that he himself shared that same abnormal pattern of brain activity.

Unfortunately, this hook is far too thin to sustain an entire book. So we end up with a convoluted mishmash: Lengthy expositions on brain anatomy and genetics, alternating with superficial musings on his own personal history. We learn that he is a cad: He partied too hard in college, he flirts with other women, he disappoints friends and colleagues, he puts family members in dangerous situations. Worst of all, he confesses, he just doesn't care. All this, he conveniently blames on his defective brain.

But, as every student of science knows, an "N of 1" does not a convincing case make. We don't know the base rate of this type of brain functioning among the normal population, or among academics or researchers such as Fallon. All we know is that his brain was similar to some unspecified proportion of 50 brain scans of killers. He attempts to bolster his case by dredging up the murderous proclivities of some far distant ancestors, saying they likely carried the "warrior gene" that programs for violence. But who among us, at least those of us of Anglo-Saxon heritage, couldn't find murderous ancestors if we searched hard enough? Again, we aren't privy to the base rates of violence among males in the times and places that his ancestors inhabited.

The current cultural obsession with psychopathy has allowed Fallon to make a second career out of his accidental discovery. With his superficially compelling first-person account, he has become a self-anointed expert on the psychopathic brain, appearing on TV shows including an episode of the CBS crime series Criminal Minds. His rigid genetic determinism fits well with the dark and fatalistic vision of humanity that dominates in this era of mass incarceration. By rooting criminality in biology, the iconic psychopath foregrounds intrinsic evil, thereby marginalizing social problems and excusing institutional failures at rehabilitation. (For more on the debate over the nature of psychopathy, see NPR's "Expert Panel: Weighing the Value of a Test for Psychopaths.")

Ultimately, The Psychopath Inside demonstrates Fallon's intimate familiarity with brain circuitry and functioning. But it also exposes his startling ignorance of the larger historical and cultural forces that influence human behavior.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting But..... Jan. 4 2014
By Yael Ellis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Writer was so self absorbed, it was irritating. Also he could have said the same in much less time, there was too much fluff and repetition. A lot of what he uses as examples of psychopathy are normal variants of emotion and behavior. I believe he is trying to fit his actions to match his theories, why not just say his theories are not hard science?
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The double benefit of this book Jan. 20 2014
By Richard Mckenzie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I am a colleague and friend of Jim Fallon, which means I got a double benefit from reading The Psychopath Inside. I learned much about the brain of a psychopath, but just as important, I learned something about why Jim feels compelled to live life as fully as humanly possible. As the reviewers note, his book is different. In his attempt to reveal the mind (or is it the "brain"?) of a high functioning socio-psychopath, Jim confesses to personal behaviors and attitudes that few others would. Contrary to what other readers presumed, this book is not an attempt to undertake "science." Rather, the book is a memoir of the life of a scientist who discovered that he has the problem that he has studied for many years as a neuroscientist, which means he offers two sources of insight.

The book raised a bunch of puzzles for me, one of which is this: How can Jim Fallon reconcile his self-professed libertarian political views with determinism (under which people's behavior is 100 percent determined by genetic and environmental forces outside of their control). Might not their political propensities also be determined? Maybe he can't help himself? Will have to raise the issue with Jim.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful read Dec 2 2013
By K Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Reading this book is an extraordinary experience. As the author, a brain researcher of international stature, unpeels his own life and psyche, going deeper and deeper as the memoir proceeds, something happens to the reader. As he admits to us some of the most self incriminating thoughts and experiences ever written by a professional or family man, especially one with such impeccable credentials and credibility, I found myself examining my own life in a similar way. He subtly coaxes you into reflecting on your own own motivations. It is a revealing and for me even freeing read. His personal story is weaved with sophisticated but remarkably accessible scientific descriptions on the brain, psychiatry, genetics, and medicine as a whole. I felt like I received the wealth of a year of advanced science education in just a thoroughly enjoyable three hours it took me to read it. This guy is a fantastic teacher, and one who may challenge what you think and feel about your own life.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising start, but doesn't deliver. Dec 8 2013
By Pfixer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Starts off well, but rambles a bit too much away from the intended points. Also gets repetitious at the end, to the point where I wondered if one chapter had been proof-read. An easy, quick read, but I would wait and get it at the local library, rather than purchase (Sorry Amazon)
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