Psychopathy: Legal and neuroscientific aspects

  • Ortega-Escobar J
  • Alcázar-Córcoles M
  • Puente-Rodríguez L
  • et al.
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© 2017 Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid Psychopathy is characterised by emotional disturbances that affect interpersonal behaviour and decision-making. The objective of this paper is to review the most recent contributions to the field of neuroscience of psychopathy and the implications that this disorder has on the criminal legal field. In regards to this last aspect, we evaluate the issue of psychopaths’ accountability and the incidence of psychopathy in many other penal institutions. In terms of the contributions of neuroscience, we will focus on the orbitofrontal (ofPFC) and ventromedial (vmPFC) regions of the frontal lobes and on the amygdala. Data spanning from the nineteenth century to the present indicate that damage to the ofPFC and vmPFC is the basis of behaviours that have been referred to as pseudopsychopathic. The earlier during brain development the damage occurs, the more likely these behaviours will resemble those of psychopaths. The damage to the amygdala is rather related to impairments in the ability to distinguish facial expressions of fear and the capacity to feel emotions. Damage to ofPFC, vmPFC, and amygdala are highly relevant to the expression of pseudopsychopathic behaviours.




Ortega-Escobar, J., Alcázar-Córcoles, M. Á., Puente-Rodríguez, L., & Peñaranda-Ramos, E. (2017). Psychopathy: Legal and neuroscientific aspects. Anuario de Psicología Jurídica, 27(1), 57–66.

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