Psychopathic traits are associated with cortical and subcortical volume alterations in healthy individuals

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Abstract

Research suggests psychopathy is associated with structural brain alterations that may contribute to the affective and interpersonal deficits frequently observed in individuals with high psychopathic traits. However, the regional alterations related to different components of psychopathy are still unclear. We used voxel-based morphometry to characterize the structural correlates of psychopathy in a sample of 35 healthy adults assessed with the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure. Furthermore, we examined the regional grey matter alterations associated with the components described by the triarchic model. Our results showed that, after accounting for variation in total intracranial volume, age and IQ, overall psychopathy was negatively associated with grey matter volume in the left putamen and amygdala. Additional regression analysis with anatomical regions of interests revealed total triPM score was also associated with increased lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and caudate volume. Boldness was positively associated with volume in the right insula. Meanness was positively associated with lateral OFC and striatum volume, and negatively associated with amygdala volume. Finally, disinhibition was negatively associated with amygdala volume. Results highlight the contribution of both subcortical and cortical brain alterations for subclinical psychopathy and are discussed in light of prior research and theoretical accounts about the neurobiological bases of psychopathic traits.

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