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Psychopathic traits influence amygdala-anterior cingulate cortex connectivity during facial emotion processing

Ewbank, Michael P. and Passamonti, Luca and Hagan, Cindy C. and Goodyer, Ian M. and Calder, Andrew J. and Fairchild, Graeme (2018) Psychopathic traits influence amygdala-anterior cingulate cortex connectivity during facial emotion processing. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13 (5). pp. 525-534. ISSN 1749-5016. PMCID PMC6007413.

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There is accumulating evidence that youths with antisocial behavior or psychopathic traits show deficits in facial emotion recognition, but little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying these impairments. A number of neuroimaging studies have investigated brain activity during facial emotion processing in youths with Conduct Disorder (CD) and adults with psychopathy, but few of these studies tested for group differences in effective connectivity—i.e. changes in connectivity during emotion processing. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and psycho-physiological interaction methods, we investigated the impact of CD and psychopathic traits on amygdala activity and effective connectivity in 46 male youths with CD and 25 typically-developing controls when processing emotional faces. All participants were aged 16–21 years. Relative to controls, youths with CD showed reduced amygdala activity when processing angry or sad faces relative to neutral faces, but the groups did not significantly differ in amygdala-related effective connectivity. In contrast, psychopathic traits were negatively correlated with amygdala–ventral anterior cingulate cortex connectivity for angry vs neutral faces, but were unrelated to amygdala responses to angry or sad faces. These findings suggest that CD and psychopathic traits have differential effects on amygdala activation and functional interactions between limbic regions during facial emotion processing.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Hagan, Cindy C.0000-0002-4576-7120
Additional Information:© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Received: 26 July 2017; Revision Received: 12 February 2018; Accepted: 25 March 2018; Published: 12 April 2018. This study was supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) through project code MC-A060-5PQ50 (to A.J.C.), a project grant from the Wellcome Trust (083140 to G.F. and I.M.G.), the Betty Behrens Research Fellowship at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge (to L.P.) and MRC research grant MR/P01271X/1 (to L.P.). Conflict of interest: None declared.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Medical Research Council (UK)MC-A060-5PQ50
Wellcome Trust083140
University of CambridgeUNSPECIFIED
Medical Research Council (UK)MR/P01271X/1
Subject Keywords:Conduct Disorder, psychopathy, callous-unemotional traits, connectivity, fMRI, emotion
Issue or Number:5
PubMed Central ID:PMC6007413
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180423-100305988
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Michael P Ewbank, Luca Passamonti, Cindy C Hagan, Ian M Goodyer, Andrew J Calder, Graeme Fairchild; Psychopathic traits influence amygdala–anterior cingulate cortex connectivity during facial emotion processing, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 13, Issue 5, 1 May 2018, Pages 525–534,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:86004
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:25 Apr 2018 18:19
Last Modified:24 Feb 2020 23:17

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