Currently in a clinical context the term ASPD is favoured over “psychopathy” and advocated for in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) produced by the American Psychiatric Association. In fact, there is an ongoing debate over how to differentiate psychopathy from other emotional dysfunctions along the antisocial disorder spectrum. However, several studies over the past few years have amassed evidence that provide a more definitive neuroscientific distinction for psychopathy as an independent brain disorder.
For example, a study published in 2010 by the psychologist Adrian Raine took magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brains of around 90 individuals “at risk for antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy,” looking for signs of a damaged or underdeveloped septum pellucidum – a structure in the limbic system of developing fetuses, which closes as the brain becomes fully formed.
Prenatal neural maldevelopment is associated with the pressence of a cavum septum pellucidum (CSP, a cavity in the septum pellucidum) and is suspected to result from exposing the fetus to alcohol. Raine et al. hypothesized and later confirmed via MRI that those who suffered from neurodevelopmental abnormalities in the “limbic and septal structures” (i.e., those with a CSP) were predisposed to ASPD and psychopathy.
Not discounting the role of environment, genetics and social circumstance at play, these findings basically mean those suffering from ASPDs and psychopathy were predisposed to these conditions by developmental biological forces beyond their control.