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Neural correlates of reward and loss sensitivity in psychopathy


Neural correlates of reward and loss sensitivity in psychopathy



Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 9(6): 794-801



ISSN/ISBN: 1749-5016

PMID: 23552079

DOI: 10.1093/scan/nst054

Psychopathy is a personality disorder associated with callous and impulsive behavior and criminal recidivism. It has long been theorized that psychopaths have deficits in processing reward and punishment. Here, we use structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural correlates of reward and loss sensitivity in a group of criminal psychopaths. Forty-one adult male prison inmates (n = 18 psychopaths and n = 23 non-psychopaths) completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging task involving the gain or loss of money. Across the entire sample of participants, monetary gains elicited robust activation within the ventral striatum (VS). Although psychopaths and non-psychopaths did not significantly differ with respect to overall levels of VS response to reward vs loss, we observed significantly different correlations between VS responses and psychopathy severity within each group. Volumetric analyses of striatal subregions revealed a similar pattern of correlations, specifically for the right accumbens area within VS. In a separate sample of inmates (n = 93 psychopaths and n = 117 non-psychopaths) who completed a self-report measure of appetitive motivation, we again found that the correlation with psychopathy severity differed between groups. These convergent results offer novel insight into the neural substrates of reward and loss processing in psychopathy.

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Accession: 037271420

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