Recently published study in the Journal of Psychiatric Research entitled “Frontal Frontal and Striatal Alterations Associated with Psychopathic Traits in Adolescents”.
Neuroimaging research has demonstrated a range of structural deficits in adults with psychopathy, but little is known about structural correlates of psychopathic tendencies in adolescents. Here we examined structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) data obtained from 14-year-old adolescents (n=108) using tensor-based morphometry (TBM) to isolate global and localized differences in brain tissue volumes associated with psychopathic traits in this otherwise healthy developmental population. We found that greater levels of psychopathic traits were correlated with increased brain tissue volumes in the left putamen, left ansa peduncularis, right superiomedial prefrontal cortex, left inferior frontal cortex, right orbitofrontal cortex, and right medial temporal regions and reduced brain tissues volumes in the right middle frontal cortex, left superior parietal lobule, and left inferior parietal lobule. Post hoc analyses of parcellated regional volumes also showed putamen enlargements to correlate with increased psychopathic traits. Consistent with earlier studies, findings suggest poor decision-making and emotional dysregulation associated with psychopathy may be due, in part, to structural anomalies in frontal and temporal regions whereas striatal structural variations may contribute to sensation-seeking and reward-driven behavior in psychopathic individuals. Future studies will help clarify how disturbances in brain maturational processes might lead to the developmental trajectory from psychopathic tendencies in adolescents to adult psychopathy.