There have been several attempts to explain psychopathy in terms of brain damage or dysfunction. Most of these attempts have relied heavily on evidence obtained from routine electroencephalographic (EEG) examinations, neuropsychological tests, and behavioral comparisons between psychopaths and patients with brain damage (e.g., Elliott, 1978; Flor Henry, 1976; Gorenstein, 1982; Hare, 1979; Syndulko, 1978; see also Chapter 11). In general, however, gross brain damage interpretations of psychopathy have not been very convincing, partly because much of the supporting evidence comes from clinical reports and research studies with a variety of methodological problems and limitations, including the use of vague, inconsistent, and unreliable diagnostic procedures, a tendency to focus on special forensic populations for which neurological impairment is suspected (e.g., court referrals involving violent and inexplicable crimes), and a failure to exert adequate experimental control (e.g., see Hare, 1984b; Syndulko, 1978). Although it is possible that firm evidence of palpable organicity will be found in psychopaths, we believe that it might be more fruitful to investigate the ways in which psychopaths may differ from others in the functional organization of cerebral processes and in their use of cognitive, attentional, and motivational strategies.
In line with this approach we present some exploratory data on the cerebral organization of language functions in criminal psychopaths. There are several reasons for our interest in the language processes of psychopaths. For example, the actual behavior of psychopaths is often strikingly inconsistent with their verbalized thoughts, feelings, and intentions.