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J Abnorm Psychol. 2012 Aug;121(3):649-58. doi: 10.1037/a0026371. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Aberrant paralimbic gray matter in criminal psychopathy.

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Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, The Mind Research Network, Albuquerque, NM 87123, USA.


Psychopaths impose large costs on society, as they are frequently habitual, violent criminals. The pervasive nature of emotional and behavioral symptoms in psychopathy suggests that several associated brain regions may contribute to the disorder. Studies employing a variety of methods have converged on a set of brain regions in paralimbic cortex and limbic areas that appear to be dysfunctional in psychopathy. The present study further tests this hypothesis by investigating structural abnormalities using voxel-based morphometry in a sample of incarcerated men (N=296). Psychopathy was associated with decreased regional gray matter in several paralimbic and limbic areas, including bilateral parahippocampal, amygdala, and hippocampal regions, bilateral temporal pole, posterior cingulate cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex. The consistent identification of paralimbic cortex and limbic structures in psychopathy across diverse methodologies strengthens the interpretation that these regions are crucial for understanding neural dysfunction in psychopathy.

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