Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Psychopathy – a Neurobiological Perspective

  • Mairead Dolan (a1)
Abstract
Background.

Diagnostic and conceptual issues relating to psychopathy are widely debated, but advances in our understanding of the aetiology are limited.

Method.

A PSYCHLIT computerised database search of publications covering five decades was supplemented by tracing back through references from existing review work.

Results.

Over 200 articles were extracted, and 95 were selected for review.

Conclusions.

It is timely to evaluate the rôle of brain dysfunction. Biological determinants are under-researched and the lack of consistency in operational definitions in published research precludes anything more than tentative conclusions about the genetic, biochemical or electrophysiological correlates of psychopathy and antisocial behaviour. A multi-modal research programme is required in the search for a comprehensive model of psychopathy that can guide both research efforts and clinical interventions.

Copyright
References
Hide All
American Psychiatric Association (1987) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd edn, revised) (DSM–III–R). Washington, DC: APA.
Andrews, J. M. (1978) Laterality and the tapping test among legal offenders. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 7, 149150.
Arthurs, R. G. S. & Cahoon, E. B. (1964) A clinical electroencephalographic survey of psychopathic personality. American Journal of Psychiatry, 120, 875882.
Barbour-McMullen, J., Coid, J. & Howard, R. C. (1988) The psychometric identification of psychopathy in mentally abnormal offenders. Personality and Individual Differences, 9, 817823.
Benson, D. F. & Blumer, D. (1975) Personality changes with frontal and temporal lobe lesions. In Psychiatric Aspects of Neurological Disease (eds. Benson, D. F. & Blumer, D.), pp. 151170. New York: Grune and Stratton.
Blackburn, R. B. (1979) Cortical and autonomic arousal in primary and secondary psychopaths. Psychophysiology, 16, 143150.
Blackburn, R. B. (1982) The Special Hospital's Assessment of Personality and Socialisation. Unpublished manuscript, Park Lane Hospital, Liverpool.
Blackburn, R. B. (1988) On moral judgements and personality disorders: the myth of the psychopathic personality revisited. British Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 505512.
Bohman, M. (1978) Some genetic aspects of alcoholism and criminality. A population of adoptees. Archives of General Psychiatry, 35, 267276.
Bohman, M., Cloninger, R., Sigvardsson, S., et al (1982) Predisposition to petty criminality in Swedish adoptees, genetic and environmental heterogeneity. Archives of General Psychiatry, 39, 12331241.
Brown, G. L., Goodwin, F. K., Ballenger, J., et al (1979) Aggression in human correlates with cerebrospinal fluid amine metabolites. Psychiatric Research, 1, 131139.
Buchsbaum, M. S., Goodwin, F. K., Muscettola, G. (1981) Urinary MHPG, stress response, personality factors and somatosensory evoked potentials in normal subjects and patients with affective disorders. Neuropsychobiology, 7, 212224.
Cadoret, R. J. & Stewart, M. A. (1991) An adoption study of attention deficit/hyperactivity/aggression and their relationship to adult antisocial personality. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 32, 7382.
Cantwell, D. P. (1972) Psychiatric illness in the families of hyperactive children. Archives of General Psychiatry, 27, 414417.
Christiansen, K. O. (1974) The genesis of aggressive criminality: implications of a study of crime in a Danish twin study. In Determinants and Origins of Aggressive Behaviour (eds. Dewit, J. & Hartup, W.), pp. 233253. The Hague: Mouton.
Cleckley, H. (1976) The Mask of Insanity (5th edn). St Louis: Mosby.
Cloninger, C. R., Guze, S. & Reich, T. (1975) The multifactorial model of disease transmission III. Familial relationships between sociopathy and hysteria. British Journal of Psychiatry, 127, 2332.
Coccaro, E. F., Siever, L. J., Klar, H. M., et al (1989) Serotonergic studies in patients with affective and personality disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 46, 587599.
Crowe, R. R. (1974) An adoption study of antisocial personality. Archives of General Psychiatry, 31, 785791.
Devonshire, P. A., Howard, R. C., Sellars, C. (1988) Frontal lobe functions and personality in mentally abnormal offenders. Personality and Individual Differences, 9, 339344.
Ellingson, R. J. (1954) The incidence of EEG abnormality among patients with mental disorders of apparently non organic origin: A critical review. American Journal of Psychiatry, 3, 263275.
Elliot, F. A. (1978) Neurological aspects of antisocial behaviour. In The Psychopath: A Comprehensive Study of Antisocial Disorders and Behaviour (ed. Reid, W. H.), pp. 161189. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Fedora, O. & Fedora, D. (1983) Some neuropsychological and psychophysiological aspects of psychopathic and nonpsychopathic criminals. In Laterality and Psychopathology (eds Flor-Henry, P. & Gruzelier, J.), pp. 4179. New York: Elsevier Science.
Fenwick, P., Howard, R. & Fenton, G. (1983) Review of cortical excitability, neurohumoral transmission and the dyscontrol syndrome. In Advances in Epileptology: XIVth Epilepsy International Symposium (ed. Parsonnage, M.). New York: Raven Press.
Flor-Henry, P. (1985) Psychiatric aspects of cerebral lateralisation. Psychiatric Annals, 15, 429434.
Forth, A. & Hare, R. D. (1989) The contingent negative variation in psychopaths. Psychophysiology, 26, 676682.
Fowles, D. C. (1980) The three arousal model: implications of Gray's two factor learning theory for heart rate, electrodermal activity and psychopathy. Psychophysiology, 17, 87104.
Gibbens, T. C. N., Pond, D. A. & Stafford-Clark, D. (1959) A follow-up study of criminal psychopaths. Journal of Mental Science, 105, 108115.
Gorenstein, E. E. (1982) Frontal lobe function in psychopaths. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 91, 583590.
Gorenstein, E. E. & Newman, J. P. (1980) Disinhibitory psychopaths—a new perspective and a model for research. Psychology Review, 87, 301315.
Hare, R. D. (1978a) Psychopathy and electrodermal responses to nonsignal stimulation. Biological Psychology, 6, 237246.
Hare, R. D. (1978b) Electrodermal and cardiovascular correlates of psychopathy. In Psychopathic Behaviour. Approaches to Research (eds. Hare, R. D. & Schalling, D.). Chichester: Wiley.
Hare, R. D. (1984) Performance of psychopaths on cognitive tasks related to frontal lobe function. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 133140.
Hare, R. D. & Quinn, M. J. (1971) Psychopathy and autonomic conditioning. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 77, 223235.
Hare, R. D. & Cox, D. N. (1978) Psychophysiological research on psychopathy. In The Psychopath: A Comprehensive Study of Antisocial Disorders and Behaviours (ed. Reid, W. H.), pp. 209222. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Hare, R. D. & McPherson, L. (1984) Psychopathy and perceptual asymmetry during verbal dichotic listening. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 141149.
Hare, R. D. & Jutai, J. W. (1988) Psychopathy and cerebral asymmetry in semantic processing. Personality and Individual Differences, 9, 329337.
Hare, R. D., Harpur, T., Timothy, J., et al (1990) The revised psychopathy checklist: Reliability and factor structure. Psychological Assessment, 2, 338341.
Heilbrun, A. B. (1982) Cognitive models of criminality based on intelligence and psychopathy levels. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50, 546557.
Hill, D. (1963) The EEG in psychiatry. In Electroencephalography: A Symposium on its Various Aspects (eds Hill, J. D. & Parr, G.), pp. 368428. London: MacDonald.
Hill, J. D. & Waterson, D. (1942) EEG studies of psychopathic personalities. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 5, 4765.
Hoffman, J. J., Hall, R. W. & Bartsch, T. W. (1987) On the relative importance of “psychopathic” personality and alcoholism on neuropsychological measures of frontal-lobe dysfunction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96, 158160.
Holland, T. R., Beckett, G. E. & Levy, M. (1981) Intelligence personality and criminal violence: A multivariate analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 49, 106111.
Howard, R. C. (1984) The clinical EEG and personality in mentally abnormal offenders. Psychological Medicine, 14, 569580.
Hare, R. D. (1986) Psychopathy: A psychobiological perspective. Personality and Individual Differences, 7, 795806.
Hare, R. D., Fenton, G. W. & Fenwick, P. B. (1982) Event Related Brain Potential in Personality and Psychopathy. A Pavlovian Approach. Herts: Wiley, Research Studies, Letchworth Press.
Hare, R. D., Fenton, G. W. & Fenwick, P. B. (1984) The contingent negative variation, personality and antisocial behaviour. British Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 463474.
Jutai, J. W. & Hare, R. D. (1983) Psychopathy and selective attention during performance of a complex perceptual-motor task. Psychophysiology, 20, 146151.
Jutai, J. W., Connolly, J. F. & Hare, R. D. (1983) Psychopathy and selective attention during performance of a complex perceptual-motor task. Psychophysiology, 20, 146151.
Jutai, J. W., Connolly, J. F. & Hare, R. D. (1987) Psychopathy and event related brain potentials (ERPs) associated with attention to speech stimuli. Personality and Individual Differences, 8, 175184.
Kandel, E. & Freed, D. (1989) Frontal lobe dysfunction and antisocial behaviour: A review. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 404413.
Kety, S. S., Rosenthal, D., Wender, P. H., et al (1976) Mental illness in the biological and adoptive families of adopted individuals who have become schizophrenic. Behavior Genetics, 6, 219225.
Kiloh, L. & Osselton, J. (1966) Clinical Electroencephalography. Washington: Butterworths.
Kurland, H. D., Yaeger, C. T. & Arthur, R. J. (1963) Psychophysiological aspects of severe behaviour disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 8, 599604.
Levander, S. E., et al (1980) Skin conductance recovery time and personality in a group of criminals. Psychophysiology, 17, 105111.
Levenson, M. R. (1992) Rethinking psychopathy. Theory and Psychology, 2, 5171.
Lidberg, L., Levander, S., Schalling, D., et al (1978) Urinary catecholamines, stress, and psychopathy: A study of arrested men awaiting trial. Psychosomatic Medicine, 40, 116125.
Lidberg, L., Modin, I., Oreland, L., et al (1985a) Platelet monoamine oxidase and psychopathy. Psychiatry Research, 16, 2227.
Lidberg, L., Tuck, M., Asberg, M. et al (1985b) Homicide, suicide and CSF 5HIAA. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 71, 230236.
Mawson, A. R. & Mawson, C. D. (1977) Psychopathy and arousal. A new interpretation of the psychophysiological literature. Biochemical Psychiatry, 12, 4974.
McCallum, W. C. (1973) The CNV and conditionability in psychopaths. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology (suppl.), 33, 337343.
McGuffin, P. & Gottesman, I. I. (1984) Genetic influences on normal and abnormal development. In Child Psychiatry: Modern Approaches (2nd edn) (eds. Rutter, M. & Hersov, L.), pp. 1733. London: Blackwell.
Mednick, S. A. & Hutchings, B. (1978) Genetic and psychophysiological factors in asocial behaviour. In Psychopathic Behaviour. Approaches to Research (eds Hare, R. D. & Schalling, D.), pp. 239254. London: Wiley.
Miller, L. (1987) Neuropsychology of the aggressive psychopath. An integrated review. Aggressive Behaviour, 13, 119140.
Miller, L. (1988) Neuropsychological perspectives on delinquency. Behavioural Science and the Law, 6, 409428.
Monroe, R. R. (1978) The medical model in psychopathy and dyscontrol syndromes. In The Psychopath (ed. Reid, W. H.), pp. 190208. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Morrison, J. R. & Stewart, M. A. (1971) A family study of the hyperactive child syndrome. Biological Psychiatry, 3, 189195.
Ogloff, J. R. & Wong, S. (1990) Electrodermal and cardiovascular evidence of a coping response in psychopaths. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 17, 231245.
O'Keane, V., Moloney, E., O'Neill, H., et al (1992) Blunted prolactin responses to d-fenfluramine in sociopathy. British Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 643646.
Pitcher, D. R. (1975) The XYY syndrome. In Comtemporary Psychiatry: Selected Reviews from the British Journal of Hospital Medicine (eds. Silverstone, T. & Barraclough, B.), pp. 316325. Kent, Ashford: Headley Brothers Ltd.
Prentice, N. N. & Kelly, F. J. (1963) Intelligence and delinquency: A reconsideration. Journal of Social Psychology, 60, 327337.
Prins, H. (1991) Is psychopathic disorder a useful clinical concept? A perspective from England and Wales. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 35, 119125.
Prinz, R. J., Conner, P. A. & Wilson, C. C. (1981) Hyperactive and aggressive behaviour in childhood: Intertwined dimensions. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 9, 191202.
Raine, A. (1986) Psychopathy, schizoid personality and borderline/schizotypal personality disorders. Personality and Individual Differences, 7, 493501.
Raine, A. & Venables, P. H. (1988) Skin conductance responsivity in psychopaths to orienting, defensive, and consonant vowel stimuli. Journal of Psychophysiology, 2, 221225.
Raine, A., O'Brien, M., Smiley, N., et al (1990) Reduced lateralisation in verbal dichotic listening in adolescent psychopaths. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 272277.
Robins, L. N. (1978) Aetiological implications in studies of childhood histories relating to antisocial personality. In Psychopathic Behaviour. Approaches to Research (eds Hare, R. D. & Schalling, D.), pp. 255271. London: Wiley.
Robinson, T. N. & Zhan, T. P. (1985) Psychoticism and arousal: Possible evidence for a linkage of P and psychopathy. Personality and Individual Differences, 6, 4766.
Satterfield, J. H. (1978) The hyperactive child syndrome: a precursor of adult psychopathy. In Psychopathic Behaviour. Approaches to Research (eds Hare, R. D. & Schalling, D.), pp. 329346. London: Wiley.
Schalling, D. (1978) Psychopathy related personality variables and the psychophysiology of socialisation. In Psychopathic Behaviour. Approaches to Research (eds. Hare, R. D. & Schalling, D.). Chichester: Wiley.
Schalling, D., Asberg, M., Adman, G., et al (1987) Markers for vulnerability to psychopathology: Temperament traits associated with platelet MAO activity. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 76, 172182.
Schulsinger, F. (1982) Psychopathy, heredity and environment. International Journal of Mental Health, 1, 190206.
Stevens, D. A., Atkinson, M. W., Kay, D., et al (1975) Psychiatric morbidity in parents and sibs of schizophrenics and nonschizophrenics. British Journal of Psychiatry, 127, 97108.
Syndulko, K. (1978) Electrocortical investigations of sociopathy. In Psychopathic Behaviour. Approaches to Research (eds Hare, R. D. & Schalling, D.), pp. 145155. London: Wiley.
Valliant, P. M., Asu, M. E., Cooper, D., et al (1984) Profile of dangerous and nondangerous offenders referred for pre-trial psychiatric assessment. Psychological Reports, 54, 411418.
Van Woerkom, T. C. A., Teelken, A. W. & Minderhoud, J. M. (1977) Differences in neurotransmitter metabolism in frontotemporal-lobe contusion and diffuse cerebral contusion. Lancet, i, 812813.
Virkkunen, M. (1986) Reactive hypoglycaemic tendency among habitually violent offenders. Nutrition Reviews/Supplement, May.
Virkkunen, M., Nuutila, A., Goodwin, F. K., et al (1987) Cerebrospinal fluid metabolite levels in male arsonists. Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 241247.
Volkow, N. D. & Trancredi, L. (1987) Neural substrates of violent behaviour. A preliminary study with positron emission tomography. British Journal of Psychiatry, 151, 668673.
Weller, M. A. (1986) Medical concepts in psychopathy and violence. Medicine, Science and the Law, 26, 131143.
Wender, P. H., Reimherr, F. W. & Wood, D. R. (1981) Attention deficit disorder (minimal brain dysfunction) in adults. Archives of General Psychiatry, 38, 449456.
Williams, D. (1969) Neural factors related to habitual aggression. Brain Research, 92, 503520.
Wood, C. C., McCarthy, G., Squires, N. K., et al (1984) Anatomical and physiological substrates of event-related potentials. In Brain and Information: Event-related Potentials. Vol. 425 (eds Karrer, R., Cohen, J. & Tueting, P.), pp. 681721. New York: Academy of Science.
Woods, B. T. & Eby, M. O. (1982) Excessive mirror movements and aggression. Biological Psychiatry, 17, 2332.
World Health Organization (1992) The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders. Geneva: WHO.
Yeudall, L. T. (1977) Neuropsychological assessment of forensic disorders. Canadian Mental Health, 25, 715.
Yeudall, L. T., Fromm-Auch, D., Davies, P. (1982) Neuropsychological impairments of persistent delinquency. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 170, 257265.
Ziskind, E. (1978) The diagnosis of sociopathy. In Psychopathic Behaviour. Approaches to Research (eds Hare, R. D. & Schalling, D.), pp. 4754. Chichester: Wiley.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

Psychopathy – a Neurobiological Perspective

  • Mairead Dolan (a1)
Submit a response

eLetters

No eLetters have been published for this article.

×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *