Reduced regional volumes associated with total psychopathy scores in an adult population with childhood lead exposure

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Abstract

Childhood lead exposure has been correlated to acts of delinquency and criminal behavior; however, little research has been conducted to examine its potential long term influence on behavioral factors such as personality, specifically psychopathic personality. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that the effects of childhood lead exposure persist into adulthood, with structural abnormalities found in gray and white matter regions involved in behavioral decision making. The current study examined whether measurements of adult psychopathy were associated with neuroanatomical differences in structural brain volumes for a longitudinal cohort with measured childhood lead exposure. We hypothesized that increased total psychopathy scores and increased blood lead concentration at 78 months of age (PbB78) would be inversely associated with volumetric measures of gray and white matter brain structures responsible for executive and emotional processing. Analyses did not display a direct effect between total psychopathy score and gray matter volume; however, reduced white matter volume in the cerebellum and brain stem in relation to increased total psychopathy scores was observed. An interaction between sex and total psychopathy score was also detected. Females displayed increased gray matter volume in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes associated with increased total psychopathy score, but did not display any white matter volume differences. Males primarily displayed reductions in frontal gray and white matter brain volume in relation to increased total psychopathy scores. Additionally, reduced gray and white matter volume was associated with increased blood lead levels in the frontal lobes; reduced white matter volume was also observed in the parietal and temporal lobes. Females demonstrated gray and white matter volume loss associated with increased PbB78 values in the right temporal lobe, as well as reduced gray matter volume in the frontal lobe. Males displayed reduced white matter volumes associated with increased PbB78 values in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes. Comparison of the two primary models revealed a volumetric decrease in the white matter of the left prefrontal cortex associated with increased total psychopathy scores and increased blood lead concentration in males. The results of this study suggested that increased psychopathy scores in this cohort may be attributable to the neuroanatomical abnormalities observed and that childhood lead exposure may be influential to these outcomes.

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