Imaging Trump’s Brain

When Donald Trump said he went to a “good school” I was flattered, because that’s where I teach. When he said he has a “good brain” it got me thinking. What would modern brain science say is going on in there?

I’m not a psychiatrist but if I were I wouldn’t be allowed to speculate about that. Ever since 1964 when hundreds of shrinks embarrassed themselves by telling a magazine that Barry Goldwater was crazy they’ve pretty much respected the “Goldwater rule” against long-distance diagnosis.

I’m not a psychologist either, but psychologists haven’t been nearly so reserved about making judgments concerning Mr. Trump’s mental state. Many have publicly concluded that he has narcissistic personality disorder, which is a mental illness. The afflicted have an inflated sense of self-importance and lack of empathy. The treatment is psychotherapy.

If you’re not sure that this diagnosis applies to Mr. Trump consider one of the items on the widely used Narcissistic Personality Inventory: “The thought of ruling the world (a) frightens the hell out of me or (b) If I ruled the world it would be a better place.”

Case closed.

But still I wondered what the brain scientists would say. One of their tools is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), basically a big clanking magnet that tracks oxygenated blood as it moves around in the brain. Now imagine we put Mr. Trump in an fMRI device that can show what parts of the brain are most active when he’s thinking about himself or looking at pictures of himself. The second part of the experiment is what he enjoys most so that wouldn’t be hard to arrange, but getting him to lie very still in the machine would be tough. If we could what would be the most active parts of his brain?

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