Psychopathy, morality, and brain function in adolescence: a pilot study
Psychopathy is a serious psychological condition that has been associated with deficits in brain structure and functioning in adults, including altered functioning during the process of moral decision-making. Whether these same brain deficits are present in adolescents with psychopathic traits is not well understood. Using fMRI, the neural correlates of moral decision-making were examined in relation to psychopathic traits in youth. Whole brain analyses show that activity in a number of regions, including the temporal pole, postcentral gyrus, anterior cingulate, and middle frontal gyrus, while viewing moral images, was positively correlated with psychopathy scores measured using the Youth Psychopathic Traits Inventory. These results contradict previous findings in adults which have found decreased functioning in individuals with psychopathic traits in the orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala. These results suggest that there may be important differences in the neural correlates of psychopathy in adults and adolescents, and that it may be essential to consider the developmental changes that occur in the brain during adolescence to better understand the development of psychopathic traits.