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Gillian ES Munro, Jane Dywan, Grant T Harris, Shari A Mckee, Ayse Unsal, and Sidney J Segalowitz (2007)

Response inhibition in psychopathy: the frontal N2 and P3

Neuroscience Letters, 418(2):149-153.

Psychopathy has been associated with atypical function of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and adjacent brain regions and with abnormalities in performance monitoring, which is thought to rely on these structures. The ACC and adjacent regions are also involved in the generation of two characteristic components of the event-related potential: the frontal N2 and P3. Both components are enhanced when a response is withheld (NoGo trial) within a series of positive-responses (Go trials) and are considered an index of response inhibition. We recorded event-related potentials while violent offenders who varied on the dimension of psychopathy and non-offender controls performed a Go/NoGo task. The offenders made more errors of commission on NoGo trials but this effect was unrelated to level of psychopathy within the group and, inconsistent with a previous report, they produced the enhanced frontal N2 and P3 effect in response to NoGo relative to Go conditions. We conclude that the neural processes involved in response inhibition are not abnormal in psychopaths when both stimuli and context are affectively neutral and suggest that a more nuanced perspective regarding impulsivity in this population be considered.


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