Aberrant response inhibition and task switching in psychopathic individuals

Menahem I. Krakowski, John Foxe, Pierfilippo de Sanctis, Karen Nolan, Matthew J. Hoptman, Constance Shope, Stephanie Kamiel, Pal Czobor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Deficits in cognitive control have been considered a core dysfunction of psychopathy, responsible for disrupted self-control. We investigated cognitive control impairments, including difficulties with task switching, failure of response inhibition, and inability to adjust speed of responding. Participants included 16 subjects with psychopathic traits (Ps), and 22 healthy controls (HCs). We recorded behavioral responses during a Task Switching paradigm, a probe of flexible behavioral adaptation to changing contexts; and a Go/NoGo Task, which assesses response inhibition and indexes behavioral impulsivity. During task switching, Ps evidenced impairments shifting set when conflicting (incongruent) information was presented, but performed as well as HCs in the absence of such conflict. In addition, when they encountered these difficulties, they failed to adjust their speed of responding. Ps presented also with deficits in response inhibition, with many commission errors on the Go/NoGo Task. This study identified impairments in response inhibition and in set shifting in psychopathic individuals. When shifting set, they evidenced difficulties refocusing on a new task when it was incongruent with the previous task. These deficits interfere with regulation of ongoing behavior and disrupt self-regulation. Our findings suggest abnormal neural processing during suppression of inappropriate responses in psychopathic individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9084
Pages (from-to)1017-1023
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 30 2015


  • Psychopathy
  • Response inhibition
  • Response modulation
  • Task switching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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