Brain response to empathy-eliciting scenarios involving pain in incarcerated individuals with psychopathy.
ABSTRACT: A marked lack of empathy is a hallmark characteristic of individuals with psychopathy. However, neural processes associated with empathic processing have not yet been directly examined in psychopathy, especially in response to the perception of other people in pain and distress.To identify potential differences in patterns of neural activity in incarcerated individuals with psychopathy and incarcerated persons serving as controls during the perception of empathy-eliciting stimuli depicting other people experiencing pain.In a case-control study, brain activation patterns elicited by dynamic stimuli depicting individuals being harmed and facial expressions of pain were compared between incarcerated individuals with psychopathy and incarcerated controls.Participants were scanned on the grounds of a correctional facility using the Mind Research Network's mobile 1.5-T magnetic resonance imaging system.Eighty incarcerated men were classified according to scores on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) as high (27 men; PCL-R, ?30), intermediate (28 men; PCL-R, 21-29), or low (25 men; PCL-R, ?20) levels of psychopathy.Neurohemodynamic response to empathy-eliciting dynamic scenarios revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging.Participants in the psychopathy group exhibited significantly less activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, and periaqueductal gray relative to controls but showed greater activation in the insula, which was positively correlated with scores on both PCL-R factors 1 and 2.In response to pain and distress cues expressed by others, individuals with psychopathy exhibit deficits in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex regardless of stimulus type and display selective impairment in processing facial cues of distress in regions associated with cognitive mentalizing. A better understanding of the neural responses to empathy-eliciting stimuli in psychopathy is necessary to inform intervention programs.
Project description:Facial expressions play a critical role in social interactions by eliciting rapid responses in the observer. Failure to perceive and experience a normal range and depth of emotion seriously impact interpersonal communication and relationships. As has been demonstrated across a number of domains, abnormal emotion processing in individuals with psychopathy plays a key role in their lack of empathy. However, the neuroimaging literature is unclear as to whether deficits are specific to particular emotions such as fear and perhaps sadness. Moreover, findings are inconsistent across studies. In the current experiment, 80 incarcerated adult males scoring high, medium, and low on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning while viewing dynamic facial expressions of fear, sadness, happiness, and pain. Participants who scored high on the PCL-R showed a reduction in neuro-hemodynamic response to all four categories of facial expressions in the face processing network (inferior occipital gyrus, fusiform gyrus, and superior temporal sulcus (STS)) as well as the extended network (inferior frontal gyrus and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)), which supports a pervasive deficit across emotion domains. Unexpectedly, the response in dorsal insula to fear, sadness, and pain was greater in psychopaths than non-psychopaths. Importantly, the orbitofrontal cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), regions critically implicated in affective and motivated behaviors, were significantly less active in individuals with psychopathy during the perception of all four emotional expressions.
Project description:Psychopathy, characterized by symptoms of emotional detachment, reduced guilt and empathy and a callous disregard for the rights and welfare of others, is a strong risk factor for immoral behavior. Psychopathy is also marked by abnormal attention with downstream consequences on emotional processing. To examine the influence of task demands on moral evaluation in psychopathy, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure neural response and functional connectivity in 88 incarcerated male subjects (28 with Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) scores ? 30) while they viewed dynamic visual stimuli depicting interpersonal harm and interpersonal assistance in two contexts, implicit and explicit. During the implicit task, high psychopathy was associated with reduced activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and caudate when viewing harmful compared with helpful social interactions. Functional connectivity seeded in the right amygdala and right temporoparietal junction revealed decreased coupling with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), anterior insula, striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. In the explicit task, higher trait psychopathy predicted reduced signal change in ACC and amygdala, accompanied by decreased functional connectivity to temporal pole, insula and striatum, but increased connectivity with dorsal ACC. Psychopathy did not influence behavioral performance in either task, despite differences in neural activity and functional connectivity. These findings provide the first direct evidence that hemodynamic activity and neural coupling within the salience network are disrupted in psychopathy, and that the effects of psychopathy on moral evaluation are influenced by attentional demands.
Project description:This study presents the first neuroimaging investigation of female psychopathy in an incarcerated population. Prior studies have found that male psychopathy is associated with reduced limbic and paralimbic activation when processing emotional stimuli and making moral judgments. The goal of this study was to investigate whether these findings extend to female psychopathy. During fMRI scanning, 157 incarcerated and 46 non-incarcerated female participants viewed unpleasant pictures, half which depicted moral transgressions, and neutral pictures. Participants rated each picture on moral transgression severity. Psychopathy was assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) in all incarcerated participants. Non-incarcerated participants were included as a control group to derive brain regions of interest associated with viewing unpleasant vs. neutral pictures (emotion contrast), and unpleasant pictures depicting moral transgressions vs. unpleasant pictures without moral transgressions (moral contrast). Regression analyses in the incarcerated group examined the association between PCL-R scores and brain activation in the emotion and moral contrasts. Results of the emotion contrast revealed a negative correlation between PCL-R scores and activation in the right amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate. Results of the moral contrast revealed a negative correlation between PCL-R scores and activation in the right temporo-parietal junction. These results indicate that female psychopathy, like male psychopathy, is characterized by reduced limbic activation during emotion processing. In contrast, reduced temporo-parietal activation to moral transgressions has been less observed in male psychopathy. These results extend prior findings in male psychopathy to female psychopathy, and reveal aberrant neural responses to morally-salient stimuli that may be unique to female psychopathy.
Project description:The expression, recognition, and communication of emotional states are ubiquitous features of the human social world. Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to perceive, manage, and reason about emotions, in oneself and others. Individuals with psychopathy have numerous difficulties in social interaction and show impairment on some emotional tasks. Here, the authors investigate the relation between EI and psychopathy in a sample of incarcerated men (N = 374), using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 2003) and the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2002). The MSCEIT is a well-validated ability-based EI measure that does not rely on self-report judgments of emotional skills. The Hare PCL-R is the gold standard for the assessment of psychopathy in clinical populations. Controlling for general intelligence, psychopathy was associated with lower EI. These findings suggest individuals with psychopathy are impaired on a range of EI abilities and that EI is an important area for understanding deficits in psychopathy.
Project description:To investigate the relationship between brain structure and psychopathic traits in maximum-security incarcerated male adolescents, and to examine whether the associations between brain volumes in paralimbic and limbic regions and psychopathic traits observed in incarcerated adult men extend to an independent sample of incarcerated male adolescents.A structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of regional gray matter volumes by using voxel-based morphometry in maximum-security incarcerated male adolescents (N = 218) assessed for psychopathic traits using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Youth Version (PCL-YV). All analyses controlled for effects of age, substance use, and brain size.Consistent with hypotheses and the adult literature, psychopathic traits were associated with decreased regional gray matter volumes in diffuse paralimbic regions, including orbitofrontal cortex, bilateral temporal poles, and posterior cingulate cortex.These results strengthen the interpretation that paralimbic regions are central for understanding neural dysfunction associated with psychopathic traits and that psychopathy is best conceptualized as a neurodevelopmental disorder.
Project description:Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by interpersonal and emotional abnormalities (e.g., lack of empathy and guilt) and antisocial behavior. Psychopathy has been associated with a number of structural brain abnormalities, most notably in orbital frontal and anterior/medial temporal regions, that may underlie psychopathic individuals' problematic behaviors. Past research evaluating cortical structure in psychopathy has considered thickness and volume, but to date no study has investigated differences in cortical gyrification, a measure of cortical complexity thought to reflect early neurodevelopmental cortical connectivity.We measured the local gyrification index (LGI) in a sample of 716 adult male inmates and performed a whole brain analysis assessing the relationship between LGI and total and factor scores on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R).PCL-R scores were negatively associated with LGI measures within the right hemisphere in the midcingulate cortex (MCC) and adjacent regions of the superior frontal gyrus as well as lateral superior parietal cortex. Additionally, PCL-R Factor 1 scores (interpersonal/affective traits) predicted less LGI within the right MCC and adjacent dorsomedial frontal cortex and greater LGI in bilateral occipital cortex. Scores on PCL-R Factor 2, indicating impulsivity and antisocial behaviors, did not predict LGI in any regions.These findings suggest that psychopathy, particularly the interpersonal and affective traits, are associated with specific structural abnormalities that form during neurodevelopment and these abnormalities may underlie aberrant brain functioning in regions important in emotional processing and cognitive control.
Project description:A defining characteristic of psychopathy is the willingness to intentionally commit moral transgressions against others without guilt or remorse. Despite this "moral insensitivity," the behavioral and neural correlates of moral decision-making in psychopathy have not been well studied. To address this issue, the authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record hemodynamic activity in 72 incarcerated male adults, stratified into psychopathic (n = 16) and nonpsychopathic (n = 16) groups based on scores from the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (R. D. Hare, 2003), while they made decisions regarding the severity of moral violations of pictures that did or did not depict moral situations. Consistent with hypotheses, an analysis of brain activity during the evaluation of pictures depicting moral violations in psychopaths versus nonpsychopaths showed atypical activity in several regions involved in moral decision-making. This included reduced moral/nonmoral picture distinctions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and anterior temporal cortex in psychopaths relative to nonpsychopaths. In a separate analysis, the association between severity of moral violation ratings and brain activity across participants was compared in psychopaths versus nonpsychopaths. Results revealed a positive association between amygdala activity and severity ratings that was greater in nonpsychopaths than psychopaths, and a negative association between posterior temporal activity and severity ratings that was greater in psychopaths than nonpsychopaths. These results reveal potential neural underpinnings of moral insensitivity in psychopathy and are discussed with reference to neurobiological models of morality and psychopathy.
Project description:Neuroimaging studies have found that adult male psychopaths show reduced engagement of limbic and paralimbic circuitry while making moral judgments. The goal of this study was to investigate whether these findings extend to adolescent males with psychopathic traits. Functional MRI was used to record hemodynamic activity in 111 incarcerated male adolescents while they viewed unpleasant pictures that did or did not depict moral transgressions and rated each on "moral violation severity". Adolescents were assessed for psychopathic traits using the Psychopathy Checklist-Youth Version (PCL-YV), Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia-Present and Lifetime Version (KSADS-PL) Conduct Disorder supplement, and Inventory of Callous and Unemotional Traits-Youth Version (ICU-Y). While viewing pictures depicting moral transgressions, CD scores were negatively correlated with hemodynamic responses in the anterior temporal cortex. Adolescents scoring low on the ICU-Y showed a positive correlation between right amygdala responses and severity of violation ratings; those with high ICU-Y scores showed a negative correlation. While viewing unpleasant pictures with and without moral transgressions, PCL-YV scores were negatively correlated with hemodynamic responses in the left amygdala. Overall, the results are consistent with those previously found in adult male psychopaths, but vary depending on the type of psychopathy assessment.
Project description:Psychopathy-related paralimbic and limbic structural brain abnormalities have been implicated in incarcerated adult and adolescent male samples. However, there have been few neuroimaging studies of psychopathic traits in females in general and no studies from incarcerated female youth in particular. Here we present the first study to examine the relationship between brain gray matter volumes and psychopathic traits (assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist-Youth Version [PCL-YV]) in a sample of maximum-security incarcerated female adolescents (N?=?39; mean age?=?17.6 years). Consistent with male samples, regional gray matter volumes were negatively related to psychopathic traits in female youth offenders in limbic and paralimbic areas, including orbitofrontal cortex, parahippocampal cortex, temporal poles, and left hippocampus. These results provide evidence that psychopathic traits manifest similar neural abnormalities across sex and age.
Project description:Psychopathy is a disorder characterized by severe and frequent moral violations in multiple domains of life. Numerous studies have shown psychopathy-related limbic brain abnormalities during moral processing; however, these studies only examined negatively valenced moral stimuli. Here, we aimed to replicate prior psychopathy research on negative moral judgments and to extend this work by examining psychopathy-related abnormalities in the processing of controversial moral stimuli and positive moral processing. Incarcerated adult males (N = 245) completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging protocol on a mobile imaging system stationed at the prison. Psychopathy was assessed using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). Participants were then shown words describing three types of moral stimuli: wrong (e.g., stealing), not wrong (e.g., charity), and controversial (e.g., euthanasia). Participants rated each stimulus as either wrong or not wrong. PCL-R total scores were correlated with not wrong behavioral responses to wrong moral stimuli, and were inversely related to hemodynamic activity in the anterior cingulate cortex in the contrast of wrong > not wrong. In the controversial > noncontroversial comparison, psychopathy was inversely associated with activity in the temporal parietal junction and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These results indicate that psychopathy-related abnormalities are observed during the processing of complex, negative, and positive moral stimuli.