Psychopathy is a personality disorder comprised of a constellation of interpersonal, affective and behavioral characteristics. Individuals with psychopathy are responsible for a disproportionate amount of civil disruption, both criminal and noncriminal. The societal cost of psychopathy rivals that of other major mental illnesses of similar prevalence (~1% general population). However, relative to other major mental health disorders (e.g., schizophrenia), we are only beginning to understand the relevant neurobiology of psychopathy. Aspects of limbic and paralimbic brain regions including the amygdala, orbital frontal cortex, anterior temporal lobe, and anterior and posterior cingulate appear to be implicated in the disorder. Despite these advances, the cognitive neuroscience of psychopathy has nearly exclusively been limited to samples of men. Historical accounts and recent clinical assessment data suggest that the construct of psychopathy has similar psychometric properties in women as it does in men. However, to date there have been no cognitive neuroscience studies of psychopathy in women. The purpose of the present proposal is to examine the integrity of the limbic and paralimbic circuitry in female offenders with psychopathy. Electrophysiological and hemodynamic imaging data will be used to map the functional neural architecture associated with attentional control, error-monitoring, and moral decision-making in female offenders stratified by psychopathy scores. This research will utilize a mobile MRI system that will be deployed to prison facilities to collect a large sample of female offenders. Detailed analyses of this large sample of female offenders will enable us to comprehensively evaluate the paralimbic dysfunction hypothesis of psychopathy, the moderating impact of alcohol and substance abuse, and to evaluate psychometric models regarding the dimensional or categorical nature of the construct of psychopathy in women.

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 in female offenders with mental health and addiction problems. This research is designed to help reduce the burden of mental health, addiction, and crime in society in general and with female offenders in particular.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Adult Psychopathology and Disorders of Aging Study Section (APDA)
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Rumsey, Judith M
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The Mind Research Network
United States
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