Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Brain markers of psychopathy.

Philippi et al. analyze 142 adult male prison inmates, and offer a detailed analysis showing that psychopathy can be correlated with altered connectivity in the default mode, frontoparietal, and cingulo-opercular networks. There are no correlations with connectivity in auditory or visual networks. The authors note that "the large and diverse inmate sample affords us a unique opportunity to examine the neural correlates of the two primary “factors” and the four “facets,” or dimensions, of psychopathy. Factor 1 corresponds to the interpersonal/affective traits of psychopathy (e.g., callousness, egocentrism), whereas Factor 2 corresponds to the lifestyle/antisocial features (e.g., impulsivity, irresponsibility). Factor 1 can be further subdivided into Facet 1 (interpersonal traits) and Facet 2 (affective traits), whereas Factor 2 can be further subdivided into Facet 3 (lifestyle traits) and Facet 4 (antisocial traits)." Here is their rather dense and condensed abstract:
Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by callous antisocial behavior and criminal recidivism. Here we examine whether psychopathy is associated with alterations in functional connectivity in three large-scale cortical networks. Using fMRI in 142 adult male prison inmates, we computed resting-state functional connectivity using seeds from the default mode network, frontoparietal network, and cingulo-opercular network. To determine the specificity of our findings to these cortical networks, we also calculated functional connectivity using seeds from two comparison primary sensory networks: visual and auditory networks. Regression analyses related network connectivity to overall psychopathy scores and to subscores for the “factors” and “facets” of psychopathy: Factor 1, interpersonal/affective traits; Factor 2, lifestyle/antisocial traits; Facet 1, interpersonal; Facet 2, affective; Facet 3, lifestyle; Facet 4, antisocial. Overall psychopathy severity was associated with reduced functional connectivity between lateral parietal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. The two factor scores exhibited contrasting relationships with functional connectivity: Factor 1 scores were associated with reduced functional connectivity in the three cortical networks, whereas Factor 2 scores were associated with heightened connectivity in the same networks. This dissociation was evident particularly in the functional connectivity between anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. The facet scores also demonstrated distinct patterns of connectivity. We found no associations between psychopathy scores and functional connectivity within visual or auditory networks. These findings provide novel evidence on the neural correlates of psychopathy and suggest that connectivity between cortical association hubs, such as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, may be a neurobiological marker of the disorder.

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