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Mesolimbic dopamine reward system hypersensitivity in individuals with psychopathic traits

Nature Neuroscience volume 13, pages 419421 (2010) | Download Citation

Abstract

Psychopathy is a personality disorder that is strongly linked to criminal behavior. Using [18F]fallypride positron emission tomography and blood oxygen level–dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging, we found that impulsive-antisocial psychopathic traits selectively predicted nucleus accumbens dopamine release and reward anticipation-related neural activity in response to pharmacological and monetary reinforcers, respectively. These findings suggest that neurochemical and neurophysiological hyper-reactivity of the dopaminergic reward system may comprise a neural substrate for impulsive-antisocial behavior and substance abuse in psychopathy.

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Acknowledgements

We thank B. Knutson for kindly making the monetary incentive delay task available and C. Weiner and M. McHugo for assistance with fMRI scanning and data analysis. This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA019670-04).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

    • Joshua W Buckholtz
    • , Michael T Treadway
    • , Ronald L Cowan
    • , Stephen D Benning
    • , Ashley N Schwartzman
    • , Evan S Shelby
    •  & David H Zald
  2. Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

    • Joshua W Buckholtz
  3. Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

    • Ronald L Cowan
    • , Neil D Woodward
    •  & David H Zald
  4. Department of Radiology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

    • Rui Li
    • , M Sib Ansari
    • , Ronald M Baldwin
    • , Clarence E Smith
    •  & Robert M Kessler
  5. Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

    • David Cole

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Contributions

J.W.B., R.M.K. and D.H.Z. designed the study. E.S.S. and A.N.S. recruited participants into the study and collected PET and personality data. J.W.B. collected fMRI data with assistance from E.S.S., and A.N.S., R.L., N.D.W. and R.M.K. performed single-subject PET data analysis and quality control. J.W.B. performed group level PET data analysis with assistance from M.T.T. J.W.B. analyzed fMRI data at all stages. M.S.A. and R.M.B. synthesized radio-labeled fallypride for PET scanning. S.D.B. provided conceptual advice, statistical support and supplementary analyses for the PPI data. R.L.C. oversaw all medical aspects of the protocol. C.E.S. and R.M.K. provided medical support for PET scanning. D.C. provided conceptual support and statistical advice for the study. J.W.B., M.T.T. and D.H.Z. wrote the manuscript with assistance from R.L.C.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joshua W Buckholtz.

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    Supplementary Figures 1–8, Supplementary Data, Supplementary Discussion and Supplementary Methods

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2510

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