Psychopathy and substance abuse are severe, co-morbid clinical disorders associated with significant civil and criminal disruption. Significant strides have been made in understanding how substance abuse and psychopathy predict institutional behavior, criminal recidivism, and treatment outcome. However, little is understood in terms of the neurobiology of these two disorders and how they interact. Psychopathy and substance abuse are commonly associated with impaired decision-making in general, moral decision-making in particular. The purpose of the present proposal is to examine the common and unique neural systems associated with moral decision-making in psychopathy and substance abuse. Structural and functional imaging methods will be used to map the neural architecture associated with processing linguistic and picture based moral decision-making paradigms in male offenders stratified by psychopathy scores and substance abuse measures. This research will utilize a mobile MRI system that will be deployed to prison facilities to collect representative samples of offenders with psychopathy and substance abuse problems. Detailed analyses of this sample will enable us to delineate the neurocognitive systems associated with impaired moral decision-making in psychopathy and substance abuse. This research may have a direct impact on the development of cognitive behavioral therapies designed to treat these conditions.

Public Health Relevance

The societal cost of crime is $1.33 Trillion per year or $4400 per every man, woman, and child in the United States. Mental health and addiction disorders are some of the most common conditions associated with criminal behavior. This proposal seeks to understand the brain systems associated with moral decision-making in male offenders with mental health and addiction problems. This research is designed to help reduce the burden of mental health, addiction, and crime in society.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Neural Basis of Psychopathology, Addictions and Sleep Disorders Study Section (NPAS)
Program Officer
Grant, Steven J
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The Mind Research Network
United States
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