Linking psychopathy to a specific brain abnormality could have significant clinical, legal, and scientific implications. Theories on the neurobiological basis of the disorder typically propose dysfunction in a circuit involving ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). However, to date there is limited brain imaging data to directly test whether psychopathy may indeed be associated with any structural or functional abnormality within this brain area. In this study, we employ two complementary imaging techniques to assess the structural and functional connectivity of vmPFC in psychopathic and non-psychopathic criminals. Using diffusion tensor imaging, we show that psychopathy is associated with reduced structural integrity in the right uncinate fasciculus, the primary white matter connection between vmPFC and anterior temporal lobe. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show that psychopathy is associated with reduced functional connectivity between vmPFC and amygdala as well as between vmPFC and medial parietal cortex. Together, these data converge to implicate diminished vmPFC connectivity as a characteristic neurobiological feature of psychopathy.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Psychopathy correlates with reduced prefrontal connectivity.
Psychopathy, defined as callous and impulsive antisocial behavior, is present in approximately a quarter of adult prison inmates. For many years, it has been known that changes accompanying ventro-medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) damage (lack of empathy, irresponsibility, and poor decision making) bear striking resemblance to psychopathic personality traits. Motzkin et al have now used two complementary neuroimaging methods to quantify the structural and functional connectivity of vmPFC in 27 psychopathic and non-psychopathic prison inmates. Their abstract: