Scientists have found that certain areas of a psychopath's brain showed a reduced activity in response to images of others in pain.
The regions affected are those known to play a role in empathy, the ability to relate to other people's feelings.
Scientists say the patterns could act as a marker to single out children at a risk of becoming adult psychopaths.
A total of 55 boys aged 10 to 16 were assessed in the study.
Of these, 37 met the criteria for children with 'conduct problems' (CP) according to questionnaire answers provided by parents and teachers.
CP children display a plethora of antisocial traits including aggression and dishonesty.
Like the central character in Lionel Shriver's novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, they can be callous and cruel.
Youngsters with conduct problems are not likely to follow in Kevin's footsteps and commit a school massacre, but the research findings suggest at least some could grow up to be psychopaths.
Comment: Psychopathy is genetic, therefore one cannot "grow up to be a psychopath". This point should be emphasized, especially when it comes to children' diagnosis and misguided attempts to "cure" psychopathy. It's important to note, that psychopathy can be both categorical and dimensional. That is, there are types and gradations of psychopaths. Martha Stout makes this pretty clear in The Sociopath Next Door. Some of them can be very covert, some can be "raging" mad dog types, others can be pitiful/poor me game players, etc.
Or, there can be individuals who are not psychopaths who react psychopathically when triggered because that is the kind of programming they have from their upbringing and exposure to pathological behavior. In that case, it is not really a psychopath, but rather a sociopath/ a "situational psychopath" who can also be described as a secondary psychopath.
Read the following books to learn more on the topic:
Political Ponerology - A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrzej M. Lobaczewski.
The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, M.D.
Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak, Ph.D., and psychopathy expert Dr Robert D. Hare.
'Our findings indicate that children with conduct problems have an atypical brain response to seeing other people in pain,' psychologist Professor Essi Viding from University College London said.
'It is important to view these findings as an indicator of early vulnerability, rather than biological destiny.