Prefrontal structural and functional brain imaging findings in antisocial, violent, and psychopathic individuals: a meta-analysis

Psychiatry Res. 2009 Nov 30;174(2):81-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2009.03.012. Epub 2009 Oct 14.


Brain-imaging studies suggest that antisocial and violent behavior is associated with structural and functional deficits in the prefrontal cortex, but there is heterogeneity in findings and it is unclear whether findings apply to psychopaths, non-violent offenders, community-based samples, and studies employing psychiatric controls. A meta-analysis was conducted on 43 structural and functional imaging studies, and the results show significantly reduced prefrontal structure and function in antisocial individuals. Effect sizes were significant for both structural and functional studies. With minor exceptions, no statistically significant moderating effects of sample characteristics and methodological variables were observed. Findings were localized to the right orbitofrontal cortex, right anterior cingulate cortex, and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Findings confirm the replicability of prefrontal structural and functional impairments in antisocial populations and highlight the involvement of orbitofrontal, dorsolateral frontal, and anterior cingulate cortex in antisocial behavior.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / pathology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / physiopathology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / psychology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Assessment
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • Violence*