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Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Oct 1;56(7):516-21.

Functional differences among those high and low on a trait measure of psychopathy.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.



It has been established that individuals who score high on measures of psychopathy demonstrate difficulty when performing tasks requiring the interpretation of other's emotional states. The aim of this study was to elucidate the relation of emotion and cognition to individual differences on a standard psychopathy personality inventory (PPI) among a nonpsychiatric population.


Twenty participants completed the PPI. Following survey completion, a mean split of their scores on the emotional-interpersonal factor was performed, and participants were placed into a high or low group. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected while participants performed a recognition task that required attention be given to either the affect or identity of target stimuli.


No significant behavioral differences were found. In response to the affect recognition task, significant differences between high- and low-scoring subjects were observed in several subregions of the frontal cortex, as well as the amygdala. No significant differences were found between the groups in response to the identity recognition condition.


Results indicate that participants scoring high on the PPI, although not behaviorally distinct, demonstrate a significantly different pattern of neural activity (as measured by blood oxygen level-dependent contrast)in response to tasks that require affective processing. The results suggest a unique neural signature associated with personality differences in a nonpsychiatric population.

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