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.