Neural correlates and serotonergic modulation of behavioural inhibition and reward in healthy and antisocial individuals

Birgit Völlm, Paul Richardson, Shane McKie, Renate Reniers, Rebecca Elliott, Ian Anderson, Steve Williams, Mairead Dolan, Bill Deakin

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48 Citations (Scopus)
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Individuals with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) are impulsive and show impairment in reinforcement processing. There is increasing evidence for a neurobiological basis of psychopathy, which shares some of the characteristics of ASPD, but research on the neuronal correlates of neuropsychological processes in ASPD remains limited. Furthermore, no research has examined the effects of serotonergic manipulation on brain activations in antisocial groups. In this study, 25 male participants with ASPD (mean age 42.1) and 32 male control participants (mean age 30.5; 25 participants providing usable scans) were randomly allocated to receive the 5-HT2C-agonist mCPP or placebo. Participants were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a behavioural inhibition (Go/NoGo) and a reward task. In comparison to healthy controls the ASPD group showed reduced task related activations in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) but increased signal in the pre/subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in the Go/No-Go task and increased activation in OFC in the reward task. mCPP modulated brain responses in both tasks in the whole group. Interactions between group and drug occured in bilateral OFC, caudate and ventral pallidum during the reward task but no significant interactions were found in the Go/No-Go task. This suggests that ASPD involves altered serotonin modulation of reward, but not motor inhibition pathways. These findings suggest that ASPD involves altered DLPFC, ACC and OFC function. Altered serotonergic modulation of reward pathways seen in the ASPD group raises the possibility that targeting serotonin systems may be therapeutic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-131
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number3
Early online date14 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • antisocial personality disorder
  • behavioural inhibition
  • reward
  • fMRI
  • serotonin


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