Distinct neuronal patterns of positive and negative moral processing in psychopathy.

Journal Article (Multicenter Study;Journal Article)

Psychopathy is a disorder characterized by severe and frequent moral violations in multiple domains of life. Numerous studies have shown psychopathy-related limbic brain abnormalities during moral processing; however, these studies only examined negatively valenced moral stimuli. Here, we aimed to replicate prior psychopathy research on negative moral judgments and to extend this work by examining psychopathy-related abnormalities in the processing of controversial moral stimuli and positive moral processing. Incarcerated adult males (N = 245) completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging protocol on a mobile imaging system stationed at the prison. Psychopathy was assessed using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). Participants were then shown words describing three types of moral stimuli: wrong (e.g., stealing), not wrong (e.g., charity), and controversial (e.g., euthanasia). Participants rated each stimulus as either wrong or not wrong. PCL-R total scores were correlated with not wrong behavioral responses to wrong moral stimuli, and were inversely related to hemodynamic activity in the anterior cingulate cortex in the contrast of wrong > not wrong. In the controversial > noncontroversial comparison, psychopathy was inversely associated with activity in the temporal parietal junction and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These results indicate that psychopathy-related abnormalities are observed during the processing of complex, negative, and positive moral stimuli.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fede, SJ; Borg, JS; Nyalakanti, PK; Harenski, CL; Cope, LM; Sinnott-Armstrong, W; Koenigs, M; Calhoun, VD; Kiehl, KA

Published Date

  • December 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 16 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 1074 - 1085

PubMed ID

  • 27549758

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6792390

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1531-135X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1530-7026

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3758/s13415-016-0454-z


  • eng