Cortical and subcortical gray matter volume in psychopathy: A voxel-wise meta-analysis

J Abnorm Psychol. 2021 Aug;130(6):627-640. doi: 10.1037/abn0000698.


Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies of gray matter volume (GMV) in psychopathy have produced inconsistent results and few have been replicated. Therefore, to clarify GMV abnormalities associated with psychopathy as operationalized by Hare (2003), we conducted a meta-analysis of VBM studies using both categorical and dimensional analyses. We identified seven studies eligible for the categorical meta-analysis (136 men with psychopathy vs 150 male controls) and 11 studies (N = 519) eligible for dimensional metaregressions. First, we used seed-based d mapping with permutation of subject images for voxel-based meta-analyses. Statistical parametric maps of GMV were available for four (57%) of the studies included in the categorical meta-analysis and for five (45%) of the studies included in the dimensional metaregression analyses, with peak coordinates available for the remaining studies. Second, we used metadata of a large-scale neuroimaging database to provide an objective and quantitative account of psychological processes attributed to the brain regions we identified in our group meta-analysis and metaregressions. Men with psychopathy exhibited reliable GMV abnormalities circumscribed to the left hemisphere in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the medial orbitofrontal cortex. Total psychopathy scores and Factors 1 and 2 scores were all related to decreased GMV within those two prefrontal regions, as well as decreased GMV in a wider set of regions encompassing midline, temporal, parietal, occipital, and subcortical structures. We discuss how decreased GMV in those regions likely account for the impairments in the emotion, cognition, action, and perception domains seen in the disorder. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Gray Matter* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging