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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2013 Jun;15(2):181-90.

Psychopathy: cognitive and neural dysfunction.

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Section of Affective Cognitive Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


in English, French, Spanish

Psychopathy is a developmental disorder marked by emotional deficits and an increased risk for antisocial behavior. It is not equivalent to the diagnosis Antisocial Personality Disorder, which concentrates only on the increased risk for antisocial behavior and not a specific cause-ie, the reduced empathy and guilt that constitutes the emotional deficit. The current review considers data from adults with psychopathy with respect to the main cognitive accounts of the disorder that stress either a primary attention deficit or a primary emotion deficit. In addition, the current review considers data regarding the neurobiology of this disorder. Dysfunction within the amygdala's role in reinforcement learning and the role of ventromedial frontal cortex in the representation of reinforcement value is stressed. Data is also presented indicating potential difficulties within parts of temporal and posterior cingulate cortex. Suggestions are made with respect to why these deficits lead to the development of the disorder.


amygdala; emotion; psychopathy; ventromedial frontal cortex

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