The link between callous-unemotional traits and neural mechanisms of reward processing: An fMRI study

Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2016 Sep 30;255:75-80. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2016.08.005. Epub 2016 Aug 15.


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits, i.e., unconcernedness and lack of prosocial feelings, may manifest in Conduct Disorder (CD), but also in Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These disorders have been associated with aberrant reward processing, while the influence of CU traits is unclear. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), we examined whether CU traits affect the neural circuit for reward. A Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) task was administered to 328 adolescents and young adults with varying levels of CU traits: 40 participants with ODD/CD plus ADHD, 101 participants with ADHD only, 84 siblings of probands with ADHD and 103 typically developing (TD) individuals. During reward anticipation, CU traits related negatively to medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) activity, independent of ADHD symptoms and ODD/CD diagnosis. Our results indicate that CU traits are a valuable dimension for assessing the neural basis of reward processing.

Keywords: ADHD; Brain; CD; Psychopathy; mPFC.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnostic imaging
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnostic imaging
  • Conduct Disorder / physiopathology
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Empathy / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult