Neural markers of antisocial behaviour in offenders and their relationship with risk-factors of offending
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The relationship between neural integrity and offending patterns has been increasingly evaluated to better understand the mechanisms that predispose towards offending behaviours. While this work has made inroads into establishing the neural underpinnings of offending behaviour, some important knowledge gaps remain. First, the extent to which neural abnormalities extend across both rest and task-based contexts in offenders remains unclear. Thus, Studies 1 and 2 compared whole-brain resting-state power spectra (rs-PS) between offenders and non-offenders, and Study 3 performed a meta-analysis of task-based neural activity differences between offenders and non-offenders. Results from Studies 1 and 2 indicated that offenders were characterized by decreased rs-PS in five (Study1) and six (Study2) of the eight evaluated resting-state networks compared to non-offenders (which occurred as a result of both decreased low-frequency activity and increased high-frequency activity). In Study 3, offenders presented aberrant task-based activity in the left IFG and increased activity in the left MOG compared to non-offenders. Thus, some dysfunctions spanned across both resting-state and task-based metrics (i.e., within left IFG and left MOG), suggesting stable abnormalities between offenders and non-offenders, while rest-related dysfunctions were more extended than those observed in offenders’ task-based activity. In addition, this work aimed to assess the degree to which offenders’ aberrant neural processes were influenced by several antisocial and criminogenic variables (e.g., psychopathic traits, drug use and features of criminal history). In Studies 1 and 2, cocaine use and number of criminal convictions predicted rs-PS disruptions, but psychopathy and cocaine-dependence status did not. In Study 3, activity within left MOG and left PCC appeared more specific to offenders with violent offence histories, while left IFG activity appeared to be more specific to contexts within which cognitive processes (rather than emotional processes) were interrogated. Overall, this work uncovered several regions of abnormal neural activity, across two different neuroimaging modalities, that differed between offenders and non-offenders. Potentially, the application of neurophysiological treatments (e.g., neurofeedback) to these sites could have treatment or rehabilitative benefits. Nonetheless, these results suggest that neural disruptions are not uniform across offenders, but rather vary as a function of antisocial/criminogenic features and processing type.