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Addict Behav. 2003 Mar;28(2):285-300.

Executive-cognitive functioning in the development of antisocial personality disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, MC2103, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030, USA.


The present study examined the association of cognitive-executive abilities to two risk factors for alcoholism, i.e., antisocial behaviors and a family history (FH+) of alcohol dependence. A sample of 91 right-handed, non-substance-dependent, young male adults recruited from the community were classified into three groups: (1) a control group of n=32 men with no history of DSM-III-R childhood conduct disorder (CD) or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD); (2) n=25 men who met criteria for a DSM-III-R childhood CD diagnosis, but did not meet diagnostic criteria for ASPD (i.e., CD/ASPD-); and (3) n=34 men who met DSM-III-R criteria for ASPD. They were further divided into those with and without a positive family history of alcoholism. A two-way (Antisocial Profile (3)x Family History of Alcoholism (2)) ANOVA was used to compare several neuropsychological measures of executive-cognitive functioning (ECF) ability. Verbal abstraction ability was found to be significantly lower in ASPD subjects compared with controls and CD-only subjects, inversely related to antisocial behavior severity (as measured by symptom count). CD-only and control subjects' abstraction ability were statistically indistinguishable. FH+ was associated with increased errors in planning performance on the Porteus Maze Test and diminished performance on Luria's simple alternate-tapping motor tasks. The effect was more pronounced when inhibition of prepotent motor planning was required. Results are consistent with previous work examining ECF ability in antisocial samples that find subtle differences in ECF ability compared to controls. The findings suggest that normal versus abnormal behavioral outcome for children with conduct problems may be influenced by cognitive ability profile, perhaps because of varying maturational processes.

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