The neurobiology of psychopathic traits in youths

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2013 Nov;14(11):786-99. doi: 10.1038/nrn3577. Epub 2013 Oct 9.


Conduct disorder is a childhood behaviour disorder that is characterized by persistent aggressive or antisocial behaviour that disrupts the child's environment and impairs his or her functioning. A proportion of children with conduct disorder have psychopathic traits. Psychopathic traits consist of a callous-unemotional component and an impulsive-antisocial component, which are associated with two core impairments. The first is a reduced empathic response to the distress of other individuals, which primarily reflects reduced amygdala responsiveness to distress cues; the second is deficits in decision making and in reinforcement learning, which reflects dysfunction in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and striatum. Genetic and prenatal factors contribute to the abnormal development of these neural systems, and social-environmental variables that affect motivation influence the probability that antisocial behaviour will be subsequently displayed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / genetics
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / therapy
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cognitive Science
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Empathy / physiology
  • Endocrine System / physiopathology
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Neurobiology
  • Neurosciences
  • Young Adult