Division of Social and Forensic Psychiatry, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Antisocial and violent behaviour have been associated with both structural and functional brain abnormalities in the frontal and the temporal lobes. The aim of the present study was to assess cortical thickness in offenders undergoing forensic psychiatric assessments, one group with psychopathy (PSY, n=7) and one group with autism spectrum disorder (ASD, n=7) compared to each other as well as to a reference group consisting of healthy non-criminal subjects (RG, n=12). A second aim was to assess correlation between scores on a psychopathy checklist (PCL-SV) and cortical thickness. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and surface-based cortical segmentation were used to calculate cortical thickness. Analyses used both regions of interest and statistical maps. When the two groups of offenders were compared, there were no differences in cortical thickness, but the PSY group had thinner cortex in the temporal lobes and in the whole right hemisphere compared to RG. There were no differences in cortical thickness between the ASD group and RG. Across subjects there was a negative correlation between PCL-SV scores and cortical thickness in the temporal lobes and the whole right hemisphere. The findings indicate that thinner cortex in the temporal lobes is present in psychopathic offenders and that these regions are important for the expression of psychopathy. However, whether thinner temporal cortex is a cause or a consequence of the antisocial behaviour is still unknown.