Somatic aphasia: mismatch of body sensations with autonomic stress reactivity in psychopathy

Biol Psychol. 2012 Jul;90(3):228-33. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.03.015. Epub 2012 Apr 2.


Background: Although one of the main characteristics of psychopaths is a deficit in emotion, it is unknown whether they show a fundamental impairment in appropriately recognizing their own body sensations during an emotion-inducing task.

Method: Skin conductance and heart rate were recorded in 138 males during a social stressor together with subjective reports of body sensations. Psychopathic traits were assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) 2nd edition (Hare, 2003).

Results: Nonpsychopathic controls who reported higher body sensations showed higher heart rate reactivity, but this verbal-autonomic consistency was not found in psychopathic individuals. This mind-body disconnection is particularly associated with the interpersonal-affective factor of psychopathy.

Conclusions: Findings are the first to document this body sensation-autonomic mismatch in psychopaths, and suggest that somatic aphasia - the inaccurate identification and recognition of one's own somatic states - may partly underlie the interpersonal-affective features of psychopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Aphasia / physiopathology*
  • Aphasia / psychology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Crime / psychology
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Tests
  • Psychophysiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult