Neural Correlates of Social Cooperation and Non-Cooperation as a Function of Psychopathy

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Biological Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 10.26). 07/2007; 61(11):1260-71. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.07.021
Source: PubMed


Psychopathy is a disorder involving a failure to experience many emotions that are necessary for appropriate social behavior. In this study, we probed the behavioral, emotional, and neural correlates of psychopathic traits within the context of a dyadic social interaction.
Thirty subjects were imaged with functional magnetic resonance imaging while playing an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma game with human confederates who were outside the scanner. Subjects also completed two self-report psychopathy questionnaires.
Subjects scoring higher on psychopathy, particularly males, defected more often and were less likely to continue cooperating after establishing mutual cooperation with a partner. Further, they experienced more outcomes in which their cooperation was not reciprocated (cooperate-defect outcome). After such outcomes, subjects scoring high in psychopathy showed less amygdala activation, suggesting weaker aversive conditioning to those outcomes. Compared with low-psychopathy subjects, subjects higher in psychopathy also showed weaker activation within orbitofrontal cortex when choosing to cooperate and showed weaker activation within dorsolateral prefrontal and rostral anterior cingulate cortex when choosing to defect.
These findings suggest that whereas subjects scoring low on psychopathy have emotional biases toward cooperation that can only be overcome with effortful cognitive control, subjects scoring high on psychopathy have an opposing bias toward defection that likewise can only be overcome with cognitive effort.

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Available from: Giuseppe Pagnoni, Oct 16, 2014
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    • "When a player cooperates and the partner fails to reciprocate that cooperation, the player experiences social rejection. In response to unreciprocated cooperation in the PD game, subjects report high levels of anger, irritation, and disappointment (Rilling et al. 2007). In addition, unreciprocated cooperation in the PD game robustly activated the anterior insula and the amygdala, both regions that have been linked with stress and anxiety and that are known to be hyperactive in patients with anxiety disorders (Etkin and Wager 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Anxiety disorders are characterized by hyperactivity in both the amygdala and the anterior insula. Interventions that normalize activity in these areas may therefore be effective in treating anxiety disorders. Recently, there has been significant interest in the potential use of oxytocin (OT), as well as vasopressin (AVP) antagonists, as treatments for anxiety disorders. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, pharmaco- fMRI study, 153 men and 151 women were randomized to treatment with either 24 IU intranasal OT, 20 IU intranasal AVP, or placebo and imaged with fMRI as they played the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma game with same-sex human and computer partners. In men, OT attenuated the fMRI response to unreciprocated cooperation (CD), a negative social interaction, within the amygdala and anterior insula. This effect was specific to interactions with human partners. In contrast, among women, OT unexpectedly attenuated the amygdala and anterior insula response to unreciprocated cooperation from computer but not human partners. Among women, AVP did not significantly modulate the response to unreciprocated cooperation in either the amygdala or the anterior insula. However, among men, AVP attenuated the BOLD response to CD outcomes with human partners across a relatively large cluster including the amygdala and the anterior insula, which was contrary to expectations. Our results suggest that OT may decrease the stress of negative social interactions among men, whereas these effects were not found in women interacting with human partners. These findings support continued investigation into the possible efficacy of OT as a treatment for anxiety disorders.
    Brain Imaging and Behavior 06/2015; DOI:10.1007/s11682-015-9411-7 · 4.60 Impact Factor
    • "In the game, two players chose to either cooperate with each other or not. Previous studies in our lab have demonstrated that reciprocated cooperation (CC) is associated with activation in brain regions that have been linked with reward processing such as striatum as well as high levels of positive affect (Rilling et al., 2002); whereas unreciprocated cooperation (CD) is associated with activation in insula and amygdala as well as high levels of negative affect (Rilling et al., 2007, 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroticism is a fundamental personality trait associated with proneness to feel negative affect. Here we ask how Neuroticism influences the neural response to positive and negative social interactions and how Neuroticism modulates the effect of intranasal oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) on the neural response to social interactions. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 153 male participants were randomized to receive 24 IU intranasal OT, 20 IU AVP or placebo. Afterwards, they were imaged with fMRI while playing an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma Game. On a different day, subjects completed the NEO personality inventory to measure Neuroticism. Neuroticism was positively correlated with the neural response to negative social interactions in the anterior cingulate cortex/medial prefrontal cortex and with the neural response to positive social interactions in the insula, indicating that Neuroticism modulates neuropsychological processing of both negative and positive social interactions. Neuroticism did not modulate the effect of intranasal OT treatment on the neural response to either positive or negative social interactions. On the other hand, AVP treatment significantly interacted with Neuroticism to modulate the BOLD response to both positive and negative social interactions. Specifically, AVP increased anterior cingulate cortex/ medial prefrontal cortex and lateral temporal lobe responses to negative social interactions to a greater extent in participants scoring high rather than low on Neuroticism. AVP also increased the insula response to positive social interactions to a greater extent in participants scoring high rather than low on Neuroticism. These results imply that AVP may increase emotion regulation in response to negative social interactions and the salience of positive social interactions to a greater extent in individuals high compared to low in Neuroticism. The current findings urge caution against uniform clinical application of nonapeptides and suggest that their efficacy may vary as a function of personality. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Neuropsychologia 05/2015; 73. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.05.004 · 3.30 Impact Factor
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    • "al . , 2011 ; Lamm et al . , 2011 ) , the amygdala is arguably a core structure that subserves empathy and compassion . The first evidence support - ing its importance for empathy came from studies of psychopaths , whose deficits in empathy form a core symptom of their disorder and who consistently have altered amygdala structure and func - tion ( Rilling et al . , 2007 ; Blair , 2008 ; Marsh et al . , 2013 ) . Beyond its role in the etiology of psychopathy , recent studies also support the amygdala ' s role in empathy in healthy populations . For example , a recent study found that extreme altruists have greater amygdala volume and activity when viewing others ' distressed faces ( Marsh et al . , 2014"
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    ABSTRACT: Although kindness-based contemplative practices are increasingly employed by clinicians and cognitive researchers to enhance prosocial emotions, social cognitive skills, and well-being, and as a tool to understand the basic workings of the social mind, we lack a coherent theoretical model with which to test the mechanisms by which kindness-based meditation may alter the brain and body. Here, we link contemplative accounts of compassion and loving-kindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition. Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another's affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof.This theoretical model will be discussed alongside best practices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.
    Frontiers in Psychology 03/2015; 6. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00109 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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