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J Abnorm Psychol. 2012 May;121(2):498-510. doi: 10.1037/a0025308. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

Inhibitory control and negative emotional processing in psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder.

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Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, USA.


The field of personality disorders has had a long-standing interest in understanding interactions between emotion and inhibitory control, as well as neurophysiological indices of these processes. More work in particular is needed to clarify differential deficits in offenders with antisocial personality disorder (APD) who differ on psychopathic traits, as APD and psychopathy are considered separate, albeit related, syndromes. Evidence of distinct neurobiological processing in these disorders would have implications for etiology-based personality disorder taxonomies in future psychiatric classification systems. To inform this area of research, we recorded event-related brain potentials during an emotional-linguistic Go/No-Go task to examine modulation of negative emotional processing by inhibitory control in three groups: psychopathy (n = 14), APD (n = 16), and control (n = 15). In control offenders, inhibitory control demands (No-Go vs. Go) modulated frontal-P3 amplitude to negative emotional words, indicating appropriate prioritization of inhibition over emotional processing. In contrast, the psychopathic group showed blunted processing of negative emotional words regardless of inhibitory control demands, consistent with research on emotional deficits in psychopathy. Finally, the APD group demonstrated enhanced processing of negative emotion words in both Go and No-Go trials, suggesting a failure to modulate negative emotional processing when inhibitory control is required. Implications for emotion-cognition interactions and putative etiological processes in these personality disorders are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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