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Brain structural correlates of psychopathic traits in elite female combat-sports athletes
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  • Eduardo González-Alemañy,
  • Jorge Armony,
  • Anelin Rodríguez-Olivera,
  • Maria Bobes-Leon
Eduardo González-Alemañy
Cuban Neuroscience Center

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jorge Armony
Douglas Research Centre
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Anelin Rodríguez-Olivera
Cuban Institute of Sports Medicine
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Maria Bobes-Leon
Cuban Neuroscience Center
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Psychopathy is characterized by glibness and superficial charm, as well as a lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse, and is often accompanied by antisocial behavior. The cerebral bases of this syndrome have been mostly studied in violent subjects or those with a criminal history. However, the antisocial component of psychopathy is not central to its conceptualization and, in fact, psychopathic traits are present in well-adjusted, non-criminal individuals within the general population. Interestingly, certain psychopathy characteristics appear to be particularly pronounced in some groups or professions. Importantly, as these so-called adaptive or successful psychopaths do not show antisocial tendencies or have significant psychiatric comorbidities, they may represent an ideal population to study this trait. Here we investigated such a group, specifically elite female judo athletes, and compared them to matched non-athletes. Participants completed psychopathy, anger, perspective-taking and empathic concern questionnaires and underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Grey matter density (GMD) was computed using voxel-based morphometry from the T1-weighted images. Athletes scored significantly higher in primary psychopathy and anger, and lower in empathy and perspective taking. They also exhibited smaller GMD in the right Temporal Pole, left Occipital Cortex, and left Amygdala/Hippocampus. GMD values for the latter cluster significantly correlated with primary psychopathy scores across both groups. These results confirm and extend previous findings to a little-studied population and provide support for the conceptualization of psychopathy as a dimensional personality trait which, not only is not necessarily associated with antisocial behavior, but may potentially have adaptive value.
12 Aug 2023Submitted to European Journal of Neuroscience
15 Aug 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
15 Aug 2023Assigned to Editor
15 Aug 2023Submission Checks Completed
15 Aug 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
27 Sep 2023Editorial Decision: Accept