Anatomy of antisocial personality

Preliminary data suggest that deceitful, violent men diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder have a reduced amount of gray matter in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Some type of prefrontal deficit may underlie this controversial disorder, asserts a team led by psychologist Adrian Raine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Magnetic resonance imaging revealed these brain-tissue deficits in 21 men with antisocial personality disorder, compared with no such deficits in 26 men addicted to alcohol or illicit drugs, 21 men with other mental disorders, and 34 men with no psychiatric disorders.

If the finding holds up, prefrontal deficits may turn out to be either a cause or a result of antisocial personality disorder, the scientists say in the February Archives of General Psychiatry.

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.