Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and psychopathy involve significant interpersonal and behavioural impairments. However, little is known about their underlying neurobiology and in particular, abnormalities in white matter (WM) microstructure. A preliminary diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DT-MRI) study of adult psychopaths employing tractography revealed abnormalities in the right uncinate fasciculus (UF) (Craig et al., 2009), indicating fronto-limbic disconnectivity. However, it is not clear whether WM abnormalities are restricted to this tract or are or more widespread, including other tracts which are involved in connectivity with the frontal lobe. We performed whole brain voxel-based analyses on WM fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) maps acquired with DT-MRI to compare 15 adults with ASPD and healthy age, handedness and IQ-matched controls. Also, within ASPD subjects we related differences in FA and MD to measures of psychopathy. Significant WM FA reduction and MD increases were found respectively in ASPD subjects relative to controls. FA was bilaterally reduced in the genu of corpus callosum while in the right frontal lobe FA reduction was found in the UF, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF), anterior corona radiata and anterior limb and genu of the internal capsule. These differences negatively correlated with measures of psychopathy. Also in the right frontal lobe, increased MD was found in the IFOF and UF, and the corpus callosum and anterior corona radiata. There was a significant positive correlation between MD and psychopathy scores.
Conclusions: The present study confirms a previous report of reduced FA in the UF. Additionally, we report for the first time, FA deficits in tracts involved in interhemispheric as well as frontal lobe connectivity in conjunction with MD increases in the frontal lobe. Hence, we provide evidence of significant WM microstructural abnormalities in frontal brain regions in ASPD and psychopathy.
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