Blair RJ. The neurobiology of psychopathic traits in youths. Nat Rev Neurosci 14: 786-799

National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 31.43). 10/2013; 14(11). DOI: 10.1038/nrn3577
Source: PubMed


Conduct disorder is a childhood behaviour disorder that is characterized by persistent aggressive or antisocial behaviour that disrupts the child's environment and impairs his or her functioning. A proportion of children with conduct disorder have psychopathic traits. Psychopathic traits consist of a callous-unemotional component and an impulsive-antisocial component, which are associated with two core impairments. The first is a reduced empathic response to the distress of other individuals, which primarily reflects reduced amygdala responsiveness to distress cues; the second is deficits in decision making and in reinforcement learning, which reflects dysfunction in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and striatum. Genetic and prenatal factors contribute to the abnormal development of these neural systems, and social-environmental variables that affect motivation influence the probability that antisocial behaviour will be subsequently displayed.

Download full-text


Available from: Robert James R Blair, May 18, 2015
144 Reads
  • Source
    • "A similar result in ACC was also found by Marsh et al. (2013). While we cannot equate functional hypo-reactivity and reduced GM volume, the current data are consistent with theories suggesting that atypical neural function in regions underlying emotional processing and reinforcement learning contributes to CP/HCU (e.g., Anderson and Kiehl 2012; Blair 2013). Future studies could use multimodal imaging to explore relationships between structural and functional measures in children with CP. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Genetic, behavioural and functional neuroimaging studies have revealed that different vulnerabilities characterise children with conduct problems and high levels of callous-unemotional traits (CP/HCU) compared with children with conduct problems and low callous-unemotional traits (CP/LCU). We used voxel-based morphometry to study grey matter volume (GMV) in 89 male participants (aged 10-16), 60 of whom exhibited CP. The CP group was subdivided into CP/HCU (n = 29) and CP/LCU (n = 31). Whole-brain and regional GMV were compared across groups (CP vs. typically developing (TD) controls (n = 29); and CP/HCU vs. CP/LCU vs. TD). Whole-brain analyses showed reduced GMV in left middle frontal gyrus in the CP/HCU group compared with TD controls. Region-of-interest analyses showed reduced volume in bilateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in the CP group as a whole compared with TD controls. Reduced volume in left OFC was found to be driven by the CP/HCU group only, with significant reductions relative to both TD controls and the CP/LCU group, and no difference between these latter two groups. Within the CP group left OFC volume was significantly predicted by CU traits, but not conduct disorder symptoms. Reduced right anterior cingulate cortex volume was also found in CP/HCU compared with TD controls. Our results support previous findings indicating that GMV differences in brain regions central to decision-making and empathy are implicated in CP. However, they extend these data to suggest that some of these differences might specifically characterise the subgroup with CP/HCU, with GMV reduction in left OFC differentiating children with CP/HCU from those with CP/LCU.
    Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 09/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10802-015-0073-0 · 3.09 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Existing research reveals that children with co-morbid callous/unemotional traits and conduct disorder symptoms engage in earlier sexual intercourse (Wymbs et al., 2013) and higher rates of substance use in adolescence (Wymbs et al., 2012). Examining the influence of callous/unemotional traits on other risk behaviors than violence is critical because of callous/unemotional traits' association with disinhibited behavior and dysregulation in emotional responsivity (Blair, 2013; Frick & White, 2008; Kimonis et al., 2006). This vulnerability within callous/unemotional traits may create differential associations with distinct types of risk factors. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Child maltreatment poses significant risk to the development of callous/unemotional traits as well as risk behaviors such as engaging in violence, having sex with strangers, and binge drinking. In the current study, the indirect pathway from child maltreatment to risk behaviors was examined via callous/unemotional traits; whereas the conscientious personality trait was tested as a moderator of this indirect pathway. Young adults and parents (N=361; Mage=19.14, SD=1.44) completed questionnaires on child maltreatment histories, callousness/unemotional traits, personality characteristics, and risk behaviors. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the hypothesized direct, indirect and conditional indirect effects. Findings showed indirect links between the child maltreatment latent factor and physical fighting, having sex with strangers, and binge drinking via callous/unemotional traits. Furthermore, the conscientiousness personality type significantly buffered the connection between callous/unemotional traits and physical fighting, supporting a conditional indirect effects. Callous/unemotional traits are important factors in the underlying mechanism between child maltreatment and risk behaviors among young adults, and conscientiousness serves as a protective factor against violence. Preventive intervention programs and clinicians may benefit from focusing in addressing callous/unemotional traits among youth who report childhood maltreatment experiences as well as targeting conscientiousness as a protective factor. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Child abuse & neglect 07/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.07.003 · 2.34 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "More than half of our top-ranked ODD genes were found to interact functionally within this landscape, identifying neurite outgrowth as a biological process that is important for the etiology of ODD. This is in line with neuroimaging studies indicating that aggressive behavior is associated with dysfunctional brain circuitry involved in emotion regulation and decision making [Blair, 2013]. Moreover, current models of aggression postulate an impaired structural and functional connectivity between prefrontal areas and subcortical structures such as the amygdala [Rusch et al., 2007; Siever, 2008; Saxena et al., 2012]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a frequent psychiatric disorder seen in children and adolescents with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ODD is also a common antecedent to both affective disorders and aggressive behaviors. Although the heritability of ODD has been estimated to be around 0.60, there has been little research into the molecular genetics of ODD. The present study examined the association of irritable and defiant/vindictive dimensions and categorical subtypes of ODD (based on latent class analyses) with previously described specific polymorphisms (DRD4 exon3 VNTR, 5-HTTLPR, and seven OXTR SNPs) as well as with dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin genes and pathways in a clinical sample of children and adolescents with ADHD. In addition, we performed a multivariate genome-wide association study (GWAS) of the aforementioned ODD dimensions and subtypes. Apart from adjusting the analyses for age and sex, we controlled for “parental ability to cope with disruptive behavior.” None of the hypothesis-driven analyses revealed a significant association with ODD dimensions and subtypes. Inadequate parenting behavior was significantly associated with all ODD dimensions and subtypes, most strongly with defiant/vindictive behaviors. In addition, the GWAS did not result in genome-wide significant findings but bioinformatics and literature analyses revealed that the proteins encoded by 28 of the 53 top-ranked genes functionally interact in a molecular landscape centered around Beta-catenin signaling and involved in the regulation of neurite outgrowth. Our findings provide new insights into the molecular basis of ODD and inform future genetic studies of oppositional behavior.
    American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics 07/2015; DOI:10.1002/ajmg.b.32346 · 3.42 Impact Factor
Show more