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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Aug 12;363(1503):2557-65. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0027.

The amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex: functional contributions and dysfunction in psychopathy.

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  • 1Mood & Anxiety Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, 15k North Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The current paper examines the functional contributions of the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the evidence that the functioning of these systems is compromised in individuals with psychopathy. The amygdala is critical for the formation of stimulus-reinforcement associations, both punishment and reward based, and the processing of emotional expressions. vmPFC is critical for the representation of reinforcement expectancies and, owing to this, decision making. Neuropsychological and neuroimaging data from individuals with psychopathy are examined. It is concluded that these critical functions of the amygdala and vmPFC, and their interaction, are compromised in individuals with the disorder. It is argued that these impairments lead to the development of psychopathy.

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