Diminished emotional and empathic capacity is a core characteristic of psychopathic personality. The current study examines the effect of the condition on neural reactivity to emotional content with the use of high-density electroencephalography (EEG). Seventeen high-trait and 15 low-trait healthy individuals identified with a self-report measure of psychopathy participated in an emotional Stroop task in which they responded to negative and positive valence blocks of emotionally charged and emotionally neutral images. The high-trait group showed less reactivity to emotional stimuli than neutral stimuli with faster Stroop reaction times, reduced amplitude of two emotional processing event-related potentials (ERPs), the Early Anterior Positivity, and the Late Positive Potential, and less affective amplification of the P1 attentional ERP. Diminished processing of emotional content may reflect a top-down, learned inhibition of emotional processing, whereas reduced early emotional reorienting of attention also suggests an additional bottom-up, biologically based deficit in affective reactivity.
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Thesis advisor: Liotti, Mario
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