Associations between amygdala nuclei volumes, psychosis, psychopathy, and violent offending

Christina Bell, Natalia Tesli, Tiril Pedersen Gurholt, Jaroslav Rokicki, Gabriela Hjell, Thomas Fischer-Vieler, Ingrid Melle, Ingrid Agartz, Ole Andreassen, Kirsten Rasmussen, Ragnhild Johansen, Christine Friestad, Unn Kristin H. Haukvik

Vitenskapelig artikkel
Psychiatry Research : Neuroimaging, 2021
Online / DOI:

The amygdala is involved in fear perception and aggression regulation, and smaller volumes have been associated with psychotic and non-psychotic violence. We explored the relationship between amygdala nuclei volumes in violent offenders with and without psychosis, and the association to psychopathy traits. 3T MRI scans (n = 204, males, 18–66 years) were obtained from psychotic violent offenders (PSY-V, n = 29), non-psychotic violent offenders (NPV, n = 19), non-violent psychosis patients (PSY-NV, n = 67), and healthy controls (HC, n = 89). Total amygdala and 9 amygdala nuclei volumes were obtained with FreeSurfer. Psychopathy traits were measured with the Psychopathy Checklist-revised (PCL-R). Multivariate analyses explored diagnostic differences in amygdala nuclei volumes and associations to psychosis, violence, and psychopathy traits. PSY-V had a smaller basal nucleus, anterior amygdaloid area, and cortical amygdalar transition area (CATA), whereas PSY-NV had a smaller CATA than HC. Volumes in NPV did not differ from HC, and there were no associations between PCL-R total or factor scores and any of the nuclei or whole amygdala volumes. The lower volumes of amygdala nuclei involved in fear modulation, stress responses, and social interpretation may point towards some mechanisms of relevance to violence in psychosis, but the results warrant replication in larger subject samples.