Neurocognitive explanations of the antisocial personality disorders

J. Blair, U. Frith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


This paper aims to provide an understanding of the antisocial personality disorders (APDs; i.e. conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy) that is informed by developmental cognitive neuroscience. These disorders must be understood in terms of both the information-processing impairments shown by afflicted individuals and the dysfunctional neural substrates that give rise to these impairments. Three broad conceptualizations of the causes of APDs are discussed. These are: (1) an impairment in executive functioning implicating prefrontal cortex; (2) an impairment in executive emotion's processing implicating orbito-frontal cortex; (3) an impairment in emotion processing implicating the amygdala. The literature is discussed and it is concluded that: first, executive functioning impairments are not associated with the development of the APDs, although the individual's executive functioning may interact with other impairments to effect prognosis; second, impairments of executive emotion processing may be implicated in the development of the APDs, though the evidence is equivocal and the lack of any detailed theory makes firm conclusions difficult; third, the development of the APDs is associated with an impairment in emotional processing and that this impairment may be due to dysfunction within a circuit which involves the amygdala.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S66-S81
JournalCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Issue numberSPEC.ISS.
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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