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Rev Neurosci. 2012;23(3):253-62. doi: 10.1515/revneuro-2012-0036.

The role of prefrontal cortex in psychopathy.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53719, USA.


Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by remorseless and impulsive antisocial behavior. Given the significant societal costs of the recidivistic criminal acti\xadvity associated with the disorder, there is a pressing need for more effective treatment strategies and, hence, a better understanding of the psychobiological mechanisms underlying the disorder. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is likely to play an important role in psychopathy. In particular, the ventromedial and anterior cingulate sectors of PFC are theorized to mediate a number of social and affective decision-making functions that appear to be disrupted in psychopathy. This article provides a critical summary of human neuroimaging data implicating prefrontal dysfunction in psychopathy. A growing body of evidence associates psychopathy with structural and functional abnormalities in ventromedial PFC and anterior cingulate cortex. Although this burgeoning field still faces a number of methodological challenges and outstanding questions that will need to be resolved by future studies, the research to date has established a link between psychopathy and PFC.

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