Neural responses to others’ pain vary with psychopathic traits in healthy adult males. / Seara-Cardoso, Ana; Viding, Essi; Lickley, Rachael; Sebastian, Catherine L.

In: Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience, Vol. 15, No. 3, 09.2015, p. 578-588.

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Abstract

Disrupted empathic processing is a core feature of psychopathy. Neuroimaging data have suggested that individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits show atypical responses to others’ pain in a network of brain regions typically recruited during empathic processing (anterior insula, inferior frontal gyrus, and mid- and anterior cingulate cortex). Here, we investigated whether neural responses to others’ pain vary with psychopathic traits within the general population in a similar manner to that found in individuals at the extreme end of the continuum. As predicted, variation in psychopathic traits was associated with variation in neural responses to others’ pain in the network of brain regions typically engaged during empathic processing. Consistent with previous research, our findings indicated the presence of suppressor effects in the association of levels of the affective-interpersonal and lifestyle-antisocial dimensions of psychopathy with neural responses to others’ pain. That is, after controlling for the influence of the other dimension, higher affective-interpersonal psychopathic traits were associated with reduced neural responses to others’ pain, whilst higher lifestyle-antisocial psychopathic traits were associated with increased neural responses to others’ pain. Our findings provide further evidence that atypical function in this network might represent neural markers of disrupted emotional and empathic processing; that the two dimensions of psychopathy might tap into distinct underlying vulnerabilities; and, most importantly, that the relationships observed at the extreme end of the psychopathy spectrum apply to the nonclinical distribution of these traits, providing further evidence for continuities in the mechanisms underlying psychopathic traits across the general population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-588
Number of pages11
JournalCognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience
Volume15
Issue number3
Early online date17 Mar 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015
This open access research output is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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