Aberrant functional network connectivity in psychopathy from a large (N = 985) forensic sample

Flor A. Espinoza, Victor M. Vergara, Daisy Reyes, Nathaniel E. Anderson, Carla L. Harenski, Jean Decety, Srinivas Rachakonda, Eswar Damaraju, Barnaly Rashid, Robyn L. Miller, Michael Koenigs, David S. Kosson, Keith Harenski, Kent A. Kiehl, Vince D. Calhoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by antisocial behavior, lack of remorse and empathy, and impaired decision making. The disproportionate amount of crime committed by psychopaths has severe emotional and economic impacts on society. Here we examine the neural correlates associated with psychopathy to improve early assessment and perhaps inform treatments for this condition. Previous resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in psychopathy have primarily focused on regions of interest. This study examines whole-brain functional connectivity and its association to psychopathic traits. Psychopathy was hypothesized to be characterized by aberrant functional network connectivity (FNC) in several limbic/paralimbic networks. Group-independent component and regression analyses were applied to a data set of resting-state fMRI from 985 incarcerated adult males. We identified resting-state networks (RSNs), estimated FNC between RSNs, and tested their association to psychopathy factors and total summary scores (Factor 1, interpersonal/affective; Factor 2, lifestyle/antisocial). Factor 1 scores showed both increased and reduced functional connectivity between RSNs from seven brain domains (sensorimotor, cerebellar, visual, salience, default mode, executive control, and attentional). Consistent with hypotheses, RSNs from the paralimbic system—insula, anterior and posterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, orbital frontal cortex, and superior temporal gyrus—were related to Factor 1 scores. No significant FNC associations were found with Factor 2 and total PCL-R scores. In summary, results suggest that the affective and interpersonal symptoms of psychopathy (Factor 1) are associated with aberrant connectivity in multiple brain networks, including paralimbic regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2624-2634
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • functional network connectivity
  • group independent component analysis
  • male inmates
  • psychopathy
  • resting-state fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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