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J Pers Disord. 2013 Feb;27(1):99-112. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2013.27.1.99.

Callous-unemotional traits modulate the neural response associated with punishing another individual during social exchange: a preliminary investigation.

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The current study examined whether Callous-Unemotional (CU) traits, a core component of psychopathy, modulate neural responses of participants engaged in a social exchange game. In this task, participants were offered an allocation of money and then given the chance to punish the offerer. Twenty youth participated and responses to both offers and the participant's punishment (or not) of these offers were examined. Increasingly unfair offers were associated with increased dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activity but this responsiveness was not modulated by CU traits. Increasing punishment of unfair offers was associated with increased dACC and anterior insula activity and this activity was modulated by CU traits. Higher CU trait participants showed a weaker association between activity and punishment level. These data suggest that CU traits are associated with appropriate expectations of other individual's normative behavior but weaker representations of such information when guiding behavior of the self.

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