Psychopathy as a Disorder of the Moral Brain: Fronto-Temporo-Limbic Grey Matter Reductions Demonstrated by Voxel-Based Morphometry

Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience Unit, labs-D'Or Hospital Network, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 05/2008; 40(3):1202-13. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.12.054
Source: PubMed


Major advances have been made in the understanding of the neurobiology of psychopathy in the past years, yet the distribution and extent of neuroanatomical abnormalities underlying the disorder are still poorly known. It is also unclear if different dimensions of the construct of psychopathy (e.g., emotional callousness, antisocial behavior) correspond to structural abnormalities in distinct regions of the brain. We tested the following hypotheses: (1) psychopathy is related to grey matter reductions in regions of the brain that underlie moral conduct and (2) the severity of psychopathy is related to the degree of structural abnormalities. Optimized voxel-based morphometry and the screening version of the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL: SV) were employed to investigate a matched sample of 15 community psychiatric patients with high PCL: SV scores, and 15 healthy normal volunteers. The analyses controlled for total grey matter, white matter and cerebrospinal fluid volumes. Grey matter reductions were observed in the frontopolar, orbitofrontal and anterior temporal cortices, superior temporal sulcus region, and insula of the patients. The degree of structural abnormalities was significantly related to the interpersonal/affective dimension of psychopathy. The pattern of grey matter reductions in patients with high psychopathy scores comprised a distributed fronto-temporal network which plays a critical role in moral sensibility and behavior.

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Available from: Ivanei E Bramati, Mar 30, 2015
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    • "Gregory et al. (2012) found reduced prefrontal GMV in offenders with APD, who were classified as psychopaths, relative to offenders with APD 'alone', and suggested that psychopathy represents a distinct phenotype. Moreover, psychopathy and persistent violence have also been associated with decreased graey matter in limbic and paralimbic areas such as the amygdala, the insula, the hippocampus, or the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) (e.g., Boccardi et al., 2011; Contreras-Rodríguez et al., 2014; Yang and Raine, 2009; Ermer et al., 2012; de Oliveira-Souza et al., 2008). Existing results are somehow inconsistent, as Boccardi et al. (2011) reported enlargement of the lateral and central nucleus of the amygdala in offenders relative to controls. "
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    ABSTRACT: Measures of psychopathy have been proved to be valuable for risk assessment in violent criminals. However, the neuronal basis of psychopathy and its contribution to the prediction of criminal recidivism is still poorly understood. We compared structural imaging data from 40 male high-risk violent offenders and 37 non-delinquent healthy controls via voxel-based morphometry. Psychopathic traits and risk for violence recidivism were correlated with grey matter volume (GMV) of regions of interest previously shown relevant for criminal behavior. Relative to controls, criminals showed less GMV in the prefrontal cortex and more GMV in cerebellar regions and basal ganglia structures. Within criminals, we found a negative correlation between prefrontal GMV and psychopathy. Additionally, there was a positive correlation between cerebellar GMV and psychopathy as well as risk of recidivism for violence. Moreover, grey matter volumes of the basal ganglia and supplementary motor area (SMA) were positively correlated with anti-sociality. GMV of the amygdala was negatively correlated with dynamic risk for violence recidivism. In contrast, GMV of (para)limbic areas (orbitofrontal cortex, insula) was positively correlated with anti-sociality and risk for violence recidivism. The current investigation revealed that in violent offenders deviations in GMV of the prefrontal cortex as well as areas involved in the motor component of impulse control (cerebellum, basal ganglia, SMA) are differentially related to psychopathic traits and the risk for violence recidivism. The results might be valuable for improving existing risk assessment tools.
    Neuroscience 09/2015; 308. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.09.011 · 3.36 Impact Factor
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    • "Evidence suggests that violent individuals display a reduction in gray matter in the OFC and the anterior cingulate (Boccardi et al., 2011; Cavanna & Trimble, 2006; Müller et al., 2008; Müller et al., 2008). In terms of psychopathic behavior and aggression, the OFC is the most commonly implicated structure (Boccardi et al., 2011; de Oliveira-Souza et al., 2008; Tiihonen et al., 2008). Empirical studies suggest that lesions to the OFC lead to extreme reactive aggression in response to social provocations (Bufkin & Luttrell, 2005; Damasio et al., 1994; Davidson, Putnam, & Larson, 2000; Koenigs & Tranel, 2007; Strüber, Lück, & Roth, 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper reviews and discusses multiple sociological, psychological, and neurological risk factors associated with violent crime and proposes self-compassion, an indicator of positive mental health, as a common link amongst these variables. Cross-disciplinary findings have implicated that neurological abnormalities resulting from exposure to violence, low self-control, lack of social bonds, and self-esteem to violent criminality. This paper contends that self-compassion is associated with each of these variables and discusses current findings that provide evidence for a link between self-compassion and violent crime. Furthermore, this paper discusses an example of an intervention that involves self-compassion. Finally, this paper discusses implications of the link between self-compassion to violent crime and risk factors associated with violent crime.
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    • "Studies of adults have relied on forensic samples assessed for overall psychopathy with Psychopathy Checklist (PCL)-based instruments (e.g. Yang et al., 2005; de Oliveira-Souza et al., 2008; Ermer et al., 2012). PCL-based instruments assess psychopathy as a unitary construct, despite emerging evidence indicating this syndrome may be better represented as a constellation of lower order personality dimensions than as a one-dimensional clinical taxon (Lilienfeld, 1998; Marcus et al., 2004; Skeem et al., 2011). "
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    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 05/2015; DOI:10.1093/scan/nsv062 · 7.37 Impact Factor
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