Adolescent Psychopathic Traits Negatively Relate to Hemodynamic Activity within the Basal Ganglia during Error-Related Processing

J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2019 Dec;47(12):1917-1929. doi: 10.1007/s10802-019-00560-3.


Youth with elevated psychopathic traits exhibit a number of comparable neurocognitive deficits as adult psychopathic offenders, including error-related processing deficits. Subregions of the basal ganglia play an important, though indirect, role in error-related processing through connections with cortical areas including the anterior cingulate cortex. A number of recent structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (s/fMRI) studies have associated basal ganglia dysfunction in youth with elevated psychopathic traits, but these studies have not examined whether dysfunction occurring within subregions of the basal ganglia help contribute to error-related processing deficits previously observed in such at-risk youth. Here, we investigated error-related processing using a response inhibition Go/NoGo fMRI experimental paradigm in a large sample of incarcerated male adolescent offenders (n = 182). In the current report, psychopathy scores (measured via the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV)) were negatively related to hemodynamic activity within input nuclei of the basal ganglia (i.e., the caudate and nucleus accumbens), as well as intrinsic/output nuclei (i.e., the globus pallidus and substantia nigra) and related nuclei (i.e., the subthalamic nucleus) during error-related processing. This is the first evidence to suggest that error-related dysfunction previously observed in youth with elevated psychopathic traits may be related to underlying abnormalities occurring within subregions of the basal ganglia.

Keywords: Basal ganglia; Callous-unemotional traits; Error-related processing; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Juvenile delinquency.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnostic imaging
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Caudate Nucleus / diagnostic imaging
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiopathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Criminals*
  • Globus Pallidus / diagnostic imaging
  • Globus Pallidus / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nucleus Accumbens / diagnostic imaging
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Substantia Nigra / diagnostic imaging
  • Substantia Nigra / physiopathology*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / diagnostic imaging
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult