BACKGROUND: The developmental trajectory of psychopathy seemingly begins early in life and includes the presence of callous-unemotional (CU) traits (e.g., deficient emotional reactivity, callousness) in conduct-disordered (CD) youth. Though subregion-specific anomalies in amygdala function have been suggested in CU pathophysiology among antisocial populations, system-level studies of CU traits have typically examined the amygdala as a unitary structure. Hence, nothing is yet known of how amygdala subregional network function may contribute to callousunemotionality in severely antisocial people. METHODS: We addressed this important issue by uniquely examining the intrinsic functional connectivity of basolateral amygdala (BLA) and centromedial amygdala (CMA) networks across three matched groups of juveniles: CD offenders with CU traits (CD/CU1; n 5 25), CD offenders without CU traits (CD/CU2; n 5 25), and healthy control subjects (n 5 24). We additionally examined whether perturbed amygdala subregional connectivity coincides with altered volume and shape of the amygdaloid complex. RESULTS: Relative to CD/CU2 and healthy control youths, CD/CU1 youths showed abnormally increased BLA connectivity with a cluster that included both dorsal and ventral portions of the anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortices, along with posterior cingulate, sensory associative, and striatal regions. In contrast, compared with CD/CU2 and healthy control youths, CD/CU1 youths showed diminished CMA connectivity with ventromedial/ orbitofrontal regions. Critically, these connectivity changes coincided with local hypotrophy of BLA and CMA subregions (without being statistically correlated) and were associated to more severe CU symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide unique insights into a putative mechanism for perturbed attention-emotion interactions, which could bias salience processing and associative learning in youth with CD/CU1.

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Biological Psychiatry

Aghajani, M., Klapwijk, E.T., van der Wee, N.J., Veer, I.M., Boon, A.E., van Beelen, P., … Colins, O.F. (2017). Disorganized Amygdala Networks in Conduct-Disordered Juvenile Offenders With Callous-Unemotional Traits. Biological Psychiatry, 82(4), 283–293. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.05.017