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Biol Psychiatry. 2001 Nov 1;50(9):677-84.

Limbic abnormalities in affective processing by criminal psychopaths as revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.



Psychopathy is a complex personality disorder of unknown etiology. Central to the disorder are anomalies or difficulties in affective processing.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to elucidate the neurobiological correlates of these anomalies in criminal psychopaths during performance of an affective memory task.


Compared with criminal nonpsychopaths and noncriminal control participants, criminal psychopaths showed significantly less affect-related activity in the amygdala/hippocampal formation, parahippocampal gyrus, ventral striatum, and in the anterior and posterior cingulate gyri. Psychopathic criminals also showed evidence of overactivation in the bilateral fronto-temporal cortex for processing affective stimuli.


These data suggest that the affective abnormalities so often observed in psychopathic offenders may be linked to deficient or weakened input from limbic structures.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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