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Psychiatry Res. 2011 Aug 30;193(2):85-92. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.12.013. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Cortex and amygdala morphology in psychopathy.

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LENITEM Laboratory of Epidemiology, Neuroimaging, & Telemedicine - IRCCS San Giovanni di Dio-FBF, via Pilastroni, 4, 25100, Brescia, Italy.


Psychopathy is characterized by abnormal emotional processes, but only recent neuroimaging studies have investigated its cerebral correlates. The study aim was to map local differences of cortical and amygdalar morphology. Cortical pattern matching and radial distance mapping techniques were used to analyze the magnetic resonance images of 26 violent male offenders (age: 32±8) with psychopathy diagnosed using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) and no schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and in matched controls (age: 35± sp="0.12"/>11). The cortex displayed up to 20% reduction in the orbitofrontal and midline structures (corrected p<0.001 bilaterally). Up to 30% tissue reduction in the basolateral nucleus, and 10-30% enlargement effects in the central and lateral nuclei indicated abnormal structure of the amygdala (corrected p=0.05 on the right; and symmetrical pattern on the left). Psychopathy features specific morphology of the main cerebral structures involved in cognitive and emotional processing, consistent with clinical and functional data, and with a hypothesis of an alternative evolutionary brain development.

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