UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavioral Neurobiology | Mental and Social Health | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


Recent neuroscientific evidence indicates that psychopathy is associated with abnormal function and structure in limbic and paralimbic areas. Psychopathy and substance use disorders are highly comorbid, but clinical experience suggests that psychopaths abuse drugs for different reasons than non-psychopaths, and that psychopaths do not typically experience withdrawal and craving upon becoming incarcerated. These neurobiological abnormalities may be related to psychopaths' different motivations for-and symptoms of-drug use. This study examined the modulatory effect of psychopathic traits on the neurobiological craving response to pictorial drug stimuli. Drug-related pictures and neutral pictures were presented and rated by participants while hemodynamic activity was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging. These data were collected at two correctional facilities in New Mexico using the Mind Research Network mobile magnetic resonance imaging system. The sample comprised 137 incarcerated adult males and females (93 females) with histories of substance dependence. The outcome of interest was the relation between psychopathy scores (using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised) and hemodynamic activity associated with viewing drug-related pictures vs. neutral pictures. There was a negative association between psychopathy scores and hemodynamic activity for viewing drug-related cues in the anterior cingulate, posterior cingulate, hippocampus, amygdala, caudate, globus pallidus, and parts of the prefrontal cortex. Psychopathic traits modulate the neurobiological craving response and suggest that individual differences are important for understanding and treating substance abuse.


drug craving, fMRI, incarcerated offenders, paralimbic system, psychopathic traits, substance dependence

Rights and Permissions

Copyright 2014 Cope, Vincent, Jobelius, Nyalakanti, Calhoun and Kiehl. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

DOI of Published Version



Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Feb 24;8:87. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00087. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Frontiers in human neuroscience

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID