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

Michael Ewbank, Luca Passamonti, Cindy Hagan, Ian Goodyer, Andrew Calder, Graeme Fairchild

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (SciVal)
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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 neuralmechanisms 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 functionalmagnetic resonance imaging and psycho-physiological interactionmethods, we investigated the impact of CD and psychopathic traits on amygdala activity and effective connectivity in 46male 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-534
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number5
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Callous-unemotional traits
  • Conduct disorder
  • Connectivity
  • Emotion
  • FMRI
  • Psychopathy
  • Anger
  • Humans
  • Facial Expression
  • Male
  • Emotions/physiology
  • Neural Pathways/diagnostic imaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Young Adult
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Amygdala/diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli/diagnostic imaging
  • Social Perception
  • Adolescent
  • Personality Tests
  • Conduct Disorder/diagnostic imaging
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder/diagnostic imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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