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Why Do Some People Have a Conscience, While Others Don't?

How are some people able to commit horrible crimes likeserial killings?and actually enjoy doing this? It all comesdown to the old-fashioned concept of empathy?the ability toput ourselves in someone else's shoes. At one time,scientists didn't understand how ANYONE was able to do this.Psychologists have identified people they?ve labeled"sociopaths," who do not have a conscience and are unable toimagine how other people feel. We know these people aremade, not born, usually by extensive abuse in earlychildhood. But how did the rest of us avoid this sad fate?The answer could be mirror neurons.

In 1996, scientists probing the part of a monkey's brainthat controls movement noticed that these cells fired notonly when the monkey performed a task, but also when it sawthe same task performed by another monkey, or a human being(monkeys are great imitators). Since these cells reflectedthe actions that the monkey observed others doing, theybecame known as "mirror neurons." We humans have mirrorneurons as well, and their absence can lead to mentalillness and autism.

We recently posted an article showing that autism is aresult of a form ofheavy metalpoisoning. Autistic children have a genetic defect thatmakes them especially vulnerable to this type of pollution,which has come to define modern life, since it is given offin auto exhausts and power plant emissions. Neurologistshave long realized that autism must be a result of somethingrelatively new in the environment, since it's not acondition that was described anywhere in the past. It couldbe that heavy metal poisoning disrupts the action of themirror neurons in our brains.

Dr. Martha Stout has written an important new book aboutthis subject called "The Sociopath Next Door." Shepostulates that it?s not only criminals who don't have aconscience?many CEOs and politicians may be peoplesociopaths as well, who do not have the ability to empathizewith others.

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Anne Strieber writes about a sociopath in her latestdiary.

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