P3 event-related potentials and childhood maltreatment in successful and unsuccessful psychopaths

Department of Criminology, Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Brain and Cognition (Impact Factor: 2.48). 08/2011; 77(2):176-82. DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2011.06.010
Source: PubMed


Although P3 event-related potential abnormalities have been found in psychopathic individuals, it is unknown whether successful (uncaught) psychopaths and unsuccessful (caught) psychopaths show similar deficits. In this study, P3 amplitude and latency were assessed from a community sample of 121 male adults using an auditory three-stimulus oddball task. Psychopathy was assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (Hare, 2003) while childhood physical maltreatment was assessed using the Conflict Tactic Scale (Straus, 1979). Results revealed that compared to normal controls, unsuccessful psychopaths showed reduced parietal P3 amplitudes to target stimuli and reported experienced more physical abuse in childhood. In contrast, successful psychopaths exhibited larger parietal P3 amplitude and shorter frontal P3 latency to irrelevant nontarget stimuli than unsuccessful psychopaths. This is the first report of electrophysiological processing differences between successful and unsuccessful psychopaths, possibly indicating neurocognitive and psychosocial distinctions between these two subtypes of psychopathy.

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    • "Kiehl et al. [9] reported the P3a to be reduced, but only in one of the two psychopathic samples tested and no differences were found in the other sample. Gao et al. [10] reported no differences in P3a amplitudes between controls, successful (uncaught) and unsuccessful psychopaths. Furthermore, a study on another frontal P3 component known as the NoGo P3 found reduced amplitudes in psychopathy [21], while a more recent investigation found the NoGo P3 to be unaffected in psychopathy [13]. "
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