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Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2010 Feb;12(1):76-82. doi: 10.1007/s11920-009-0086-x.

Neuroimaging of psychopathy and antisocial behavior: a targeted review.

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  • 1Mood and Anxiety Program, National Institute of Mental Health, Room 206, 15K North Drive, MSC 2670, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The goal of this article is to provide a selective and targeted review of the neuroimaging literature on psychopathic tendencies and antisocial behavior and to explore the extent to which this literature supports recent cognitive neuroscientific models of psychopathy and antisocial behavior. The literature reveals that individuals who present with an increased risk for reactive, but not instrumental, aggression show increased amygdala responses to emotionally evocative stimuli. This is consistent with suggestions that such individuals are primed to respond strongly to an inappropriate extent to threatening or frustrating events. In contrast, individuals with psychopathic tendencies show decreased amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex responses to emotionally provocative stimuli or during emotional learning paradigms. This is consistent with suggestions that such individuals face difficulties with basic forms of emotional learning and decision making.

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