News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Selective Mapping of Psychopathy and Externalizing to Dissociable Circuits for Inhibitory Self-Control

By Alexandra M. Rodman, Erik K. Kastman, Hayley M. Dorfman, Arielle Baskin-Sommers, Kent A. Kiehl, Joseph P. Newman, and Joshua W. Buckholtz | Clinical Psychological Science | May 2, 2016

Abstract:

Antisociality is commonly conceptualized as a unitary construct, but there is considerable evidence for multidimensionality. In particular, two partially dissociable symptom clusters—psychopathy and externalizing—have divergent associations to clinical and forensic outcomes and are linked to unique patterns executive dysfunction. Here, we used fMRI in a sample of incarcerated offenders to map these dimensions of antisocial behavior to brain circuits underlying two aspects of inhibitory self-control: interference suppression and response inhibition. We found that psychopathy and externalizing are characterized by unique and task-selective patterns of dysfunction. Although higher levels of psychopathy predicted increased activity within a distributed frontoparietal network for interference suppression, externalizing did not predict brain activity during attentional control. By contrast, each dimension had opposite associations to frontoparietal activity during response inhibition. These findings provide neurobiological evidence supporting the fractionation of antisocial behavior and identify dissociable mechanisms through which different facets predispose dysfunction and impairment.

Read the full article here.

The Dialectic Between Empathy and Violence: An Opportunity for Intervention?

By Doriana Chialant, Judith Edersheim, and Bruce Price | The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences | January 11, 2016

Abstract:

The authors provide a comprehensive review of the neurobiology of empathy and compare this with the neurobiology of psychopathic predatory violence—the most extreme deficit of empathy. This suggests that the specific areas of the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, which have been associated with violent behavior, also appear to subserve the capacity for empathy. Damage to these regions may result in the emergence of aggression, but not of empathy, suggesting a structurally inverse relationship between the two. The authors examine the evidence for a dialectic between empathy and predatory violence and explore the implications for early interventions with empathy training in treatment-resistant psychopathy.

Read the full article here.

Joshua Buckholtz on Imaging, Genetics of Antisocial Behavior & Psychopathy

CLBB Faculty Member Joshua Buckholtz is a featured contributor in the new volume, Neuroimaging Genetics: Principles and Practices, published by Oxford University Press. According to the description, “The work presented in this volume elaborates on the explosive interest from diverse research areas in psychiatry and neurology in the use of imaging genetics as a unique tool to establish and identify mechanisms of risk, establish biological significance, and extend statistical evidence of genetic associations.” Dr. Buckholtz, along with Hayley M. Dorfman, wrote a chapter entitled, “Imaging Genetics of Antisocial Behavior and Psychopathy”, under Part IV of the book.

Check out Neuroimaging Genetics: Principles and Practices today!

High-Quality Foster Care Mitigates Callous-Unemotional Traits Following Early Deprivation in Boys: A Randomized Controlled Trial

By Kathryn L. Humphreys, Lucy McGoron, Margaret A. Sheridan, Katie A. McLaughlin, Nathan A. Fox, Charles A. Nelson III, and Charles H. Zeanah | Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry | October 9, 2015

Abstract:

Objective

Callous-unemotional (CU) traits in childhood are a developmental precursor to psychopathy, yet the origins and etiology of CU traits are not known. We examined CU traits among 12-year-old children exposed to severe early deprivation and evaluated whether a high-quality foster care intervention mitigated the development of high levels of CU traits.

Method

Participants were from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, a randomized controlled trial of foster care for children in institutions. Children were recruited from institutions in Bucharest, Romania, along with age- and sex-matched children who were never institutionalized. Children raised in institutional settings were randomized (Mage=22 months) to either a foster-care group (n=68) or a care-as-usual group (n=68). CU traits were assessed at age 12.75 years in available participants from the randomized trial (n=95) and children who were never institutionalized (n=50).

Results

Children who experienced institutional rearing as young children had significantly higher levels of CU traits in early adolescence compared to children who were never institutionalized. Intent-to-treat analysis indicated that, among boys, CU traits were significantly lower among those who received the foster care intervention compared to those randomized to care as usual. Caregiver responsiveness to distress, but not caregiver warmth, mediated the intervention effect on CU traits in boys.

Conclusion

These findings provide the first evidence to date that psychosocial intervention can prevent the onset of CU traits. Although severe early deprivation predicted increased levels of CU traits, high-quality foster care that emphasized responsive caregiving reduced the impact of deprivation on CU trait development for boys.

Read the full article here.