Neuroaffective processing in criminal psychopaths: Brain event-related potentials reveal task-specific anomalies.

R Howard, PJ McCullagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This study aimed to confirm neuroaffective processing deficits in psychopaths by measuring late brain event-related potential (ERP) components and behavior in groups of psychopathic and nonpsychopathic inmates of a Singaporean prison while they performed two tasks. In a Categorization task, affective stimuli were task-relevant and required focused attention, while in a Vigilance task, affective pictures were presented in the background while participants discriminated vertical from oblique lines. Psychopaths showed differences in late positive ERPs that were sensitive to affective stimulus properties (valence and arousal) in the Categorization, but not in the Vigilance task, suggesting that only under conditions of focused attention did psychopaths show a neuroaffective processing deficit. In the Categorization task, psychopaths also showed a significantly larger prefrontal negative ERP (N350) whose amplitude correlated positively with the behavioral facet of psychopathy. In the Vigilance task, psychopaths both missed more targets and showed significantly smaller target-evoked parietal ERPs when viewing arousing pictures, suggesting their attentional focus was disrupted by the affective background.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-339
JournalJournal of Personality Disorders
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Jun 2007


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