The Antisocial Brain: Psychopathy Matters A Structural MRI Investigation of Antisocial Male Violent Offenders

and Département de Psychiatrie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada (Dr Hodgins).
Archives of general psychiatry (Impact Factor: 14.48). 05/2012; 69(9). DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2012.222
Source: PubMed


CONTEXT: The population of men who display persistent antisocial and violent behavior is heterogeneous. Callous-unemotional traits in childhood and psychopathic traits in adulthood characterize a distinct subgroup. OBJECTIVE: To identify structural gray matter (GM) differences between persistent violent offenders who meet criteria for antisocial personality disorder and the syndrome of psychopathy (ASPD+P) and those meeting criteria only for ASPD (ASPD-P). DESIGN: Cross-sectional case-control structural magnetic resonance imaging study. SETTING: Inner-city probation services and neuroimaging research unit in London, England. PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-six men, including 17 violent offenders with ASPD+P, 27 violent offenders with ASPD-P, and 22 healthy nonoffenders participated in the study. Forensic clinicians assessed participants using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Gray matter volumes as assessed by structural magnetic resonance imaging and volumetric voxel-based morphometry analyses. RESULTS: Offenders with ASPD+P displayed significantly reduced GM volumes bilaterally in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 10) and temporal poles (Brodmann area 20/38) relative to offenders with ASPD-P and nonoffenders. These reductions were not attributable to substance use disorders. Offenders with ASPD-P exhibited GM volumes similar to the nonoffenders. CONCLUSIONS: Reduced GM volume within areas implicated in empathic processing, moral reasoning, and processing of prosocial emotions such as guilt and embarrassment may contribute to the profound abnormalities of social behavior observed in psychopathy. Evidence of robust structural brain differences between persistently violent men with and without psychopathy adds to the evidence that psychopathy represents a distinct phenotype. This knowledge may facilitate research into the etiology of persistent violent behavior.

Download full-text


Available from: Hodgins Sheilagh,
  • Source
    • "Although antisocial behavior represents a defining feature of the psychopathy construct (Hare and Neumann, 2010), the presence of the core affective features of the disorder differentiates it from other syndromes characterized by marked levels of antisociality, criminality, and aggression. For example, antisocial behavior with psychopathic tendencies has been successfully distinguished from more generally antisocial behavior in terms of emotion processing (Kosson et al., 2006; Verona et al., 2012), brain structure (Gregory et al., 2012), and heritability among children at age seven (Viding et al., 2005) and nine (Viding et al., 2008). Psychopathy therefore refers to a distinct subgroup of antisocial individuals characterized by heritable deficits in the processing of emotional stimuli. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Psychopathic traits are linked with impairments in emotion recognition, and reduced attention to the eyes has been noted among children with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits. However, similar findings are yet to be found in relation to psychopathic traits among adult male participants. Here we investigated the relationship of primary (selfish, uncaring) and secondary (impulsive, antisocial) psychopathic traits with attention to the eyes among adult male non-offenders during an emotion recognition task. We measured the number of fixations, and overall dwell time, on the eyes and the mouth of male and female faces showing the six basic emotions at varying levels of intensity. We found no relationship of primary or secondary psychopathic traits with recognition accuracy. However, primary psychopathic traits were associated with a reduced number of fixations, and lower overall dwell time, on the eyes relative to the mouth across expressions, intensity, and sex. Furthermore, the relationship of primary psychopathic traits with attention to the eyes of angry and fearful faces was influenced by the sex and intensity of the expression. We also showed that a greater number of fixations on the eyes, relative to the mouth, was associated with increased accuracy for angry and fearful expression recognition. These results are the first to show effects of psychopathic traits on attention to the eyes of emotional faces in an adult male sample, and may support amygdala based accounts of psychopathy. These findings may also have methodological implications for clinical studies of emotion recognition.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 10/2015; 9(552). DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00552 · 3.63 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Recent neurobiological data demonstrate the widespread nature of brain abnormalities in psychopathy. Data show that psychopathy is characterized by a range of neural irregularities including morphological and functional abnormalities in frontal and temporal areas, cortical and subcortical gray matter structures, and white-matter pathways (Blair, 2012; Craig et al., 2009; Glenn & Raine, 2008; Gregory et al., 2012; Koenigs et al., 2012; McCloskey, Phan, & Coccaro, 2005; Meffert et al., 2013). In addition to structural abnormalities and connectivity deficits within the temporal cortex, the brains of psychopathic individuals show widespread deficits in neural connectivity (Ly et al., 2012; Motzkin, Newman, Kiehl, & Koenigs, 2011; Philippi et al., 2015). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This article introduces a novel theoretical framework for psychopathy that bridges dominant affective and cognitive models. According to the proposed impaired integration (II) framework of psychopathic dysfunction, topographical irregularities and abnormalities in neural connectivity in psychopathy hinder the complex process of information integration. Central to the II theory is the notion that psychopathic individuals are “‘wired up’ differently” (Hare, Williamson, & Harpur, 1988, p. 87). Specific theoretical assumptions include decreased functioning of the Salience and Default Mode Networks, normal functioning in executive control networks, and less coordination and flexible switching between networks. Following a review of dominant models of psychopathy, we introduce our II theory as a parsimonious account of behavioral and brain irregularities in psychopathy. The II theory provides a unified theoretical framework for understanding psychopathic dysfunction and integrates principle tenets of affective and cognitive perspectives. Moreover, it accommodates evidence regarding connectivity abnormalities in psychopathy through its network theoretical perspective.
    Psychological Review 10/2015; 122(4):770-791. DOI:10.1037/a0039703 · 7.97 Impact Factor
    • "Since Yang and Raine's (2009) meta-analysis, more studies have focused specifically on the relationship between the reduction in the prefrontal cortex and psychopathy. Gregory et al. (2012) found that individuals with psychopathy, compared to antisocial personality disorder and controls, demonstrated significantly reduced grey matter volumes bilaterally in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex. Similarly, at least three studies found that psychopathy was associated with decreased grey matter (De Oliveira-Souza et al., 2008; Ermer et al., 2012) and area measurements (Dolan, Deakin, Roberts, & Anderson, 2002) in a variety of brain areas, including the orbitofrontal cortex. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: AbstractPurpose While there has been an exponential increase in brain imaging research on psychopathy in the past two decades, knowledge on the brain basis to child and adolescent psychopathic-like behavior is relatively new. This adult and child research has potential future implications for the development of new interventions, prediction of future offending, and punishment. Method This review examines both adult and child literatures on the neural basis of psychopathy, together with implications for the criminal justice system. Results The adult imaging literature provides growing evidence for amygdala impairments in psychopaths, and more variable evidence for prefrontal deficits. The emerging adolescent imaging literature with notable exceptions broadly parallels these adult findings and may help explain the development of fearlessness, disinhibition, and lack of empathy. Conclusion This knowledge places policy makers at a crossroads. Should new biological interventions be developed to remediate these brain abnormalities? Would imaging be used in the future to predict offending? Could imaging findings help excuse psychopathic behavior or alternatively argue for longer sentences for public protection? This review attempts to address these issues at the child and adult levels and provides directions for future research that include the incorporation of biological measures into treatment programs.
    Journal of Criminal Justice 04/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2015.04.003 · 1.24 Impact Factor
Show more