Altered brain structure in pathological narcissism

June 19, 2013, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

A far-reaching disorder of the self-esteem is denoted as a narcissistic personality disorder. Persons with pathological narcissism on the one hand suffer from feelings of inferiority, while on the other hand projecting themselves to the world as arrogant, disparaging and self-absorbed. One of the key features of a narcissistic personality disorder is the lack of empathy. Although patients suffering from such a disorder are well able to recognize what other persons feel, think and intent, they display little compassion.

In this study, the team of scientists led by Privatdozent Dr. Stefan Röpke from the Charité Department of Psychiatry and Director of the working group, have for the first time demonstrated the structural correlate of this deficit. They analyzed a total of 34 test subjects, of which 17 suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder. By means of various tests, the researchers had already revealed in a preliminary study that these patients actually exhibit a deficit of the ability to emphasize. Using (MRI) methods, the scientists measured the thickness of the patients' cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex forms the external nerve cell layer of the brain. The findings revealed that those subjects suffering from narcissistic personality disorder exhibited structural abnormalities in precisely that region of the brain, which is involved in the processing and generation of compassion. For patients with narcissism, this region of the was markedly reduced in thickness compared to the control group.

"Our data shows that the amount of empathy is directly correlated to the volume of gray of the corresponding cortical representation in the insular region, and that the patients with narcissism exhibit a structural deficit in exactly this area," states Dr. Röpke, commenting on the findings. "Building on this initial structural data, we are currently attempting to use functional imaging (fMRI) to understand better how the brains of patients with narcissistic personality disorder work."

Explore further: In dating game, narcissists get the girl

More information: Schulze, L. et al. Gray matter abnormalities in patients with narcissistic personality disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 17 June 2013 (10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.05.017).

Related Stories

In dating game, narcissists get the girl

May 31, 2013
(HealthDay News)—Men with high levels of narcissism—an unrealistically positive self-image coupled with feelings of entitlement—have an easier time than others attracting a potential mate, new German research says.

Study supports alternative model for personality disorders in upcoming DSM-5

May 10, 2013
A new "alternative model" included in the upcoming Fifth Edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM -5) lines up well with the current approach to diagnosis ...

The impact of deleting 5 personality disorders in the new DSM-5

January 24, 2012
A newly published paper from Rhode Island Hospital reports on the impact to patients if five personality disorders are removed from the upcoming revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5). Based ...

Borderline personality disorder: The "perfect storm" of emotion dysregulation

January 15, 2013
Originally, the label "borderline personality disorder" was applied to patients who were thought to represent a middle ground between patients with neurotic and psychotic disorders. Increasingly, though, this area of research ...

Borderline personality, bipolar disorders have similar unemployment rates

December 11, 2012
Unemployment poses a significant burden on the public no matter what the cause. But for those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, chronic unemployment is often coupled with significant health care costs. A ...

Recommended for you

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

Can psychedelic drugs 'reconnect' depressed patients with their emotions?

January 15, 2018
Imperial research suggests psilocybin can help relieve the symptoms of depression, without the 'dulling' of emotions linked with antidepressants.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.