This introductory chapter narrates the event when evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)—a technology used to approximate brain functioning—was presented for the first time in a criminal court case. The brain imaging evidence was used to argue that a highly psychopathic individual demonstrated a deficit in brain functioning that contributed to his extremely violent behavior, and therefore he should not be sentenced to death. The case incited much debate, not only about what this type of brain imaging evidence can and cannot tell about an individual, but also regarding the general idea that psychopaths, who are able to distinguish between right and wrong, may be excused for their behavior because of how their brains function. In relation to this, the chapter states that the purpose of this book is to provide an overview of this biologically based research on psychopathy.
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