Psychopathy, Phenotypic Boldness, and Affective Modulation of the Blink Reflex and P3 Responses to Acoustic Startle Probes during Aversive Images

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The triarchic model of psychopathy conceptualizes this disorder in terms of distinct phenotypic constructs of disinhibition, meanness, and boldness. The boldness facet of psychopathy (reflecting social dominance, resilience to stress, and venture-someness) is hypothesized to reflect fearless temperament. The current study examined relations between the boldness facet of psychopathy and affective/attentio- nal processing of IAPS picture stimuli. 145 adult male offenders, assessed for psychopathic traits via the PCL-R and an interview measure of boldness, completed an affective picture-viewing task in which eyeblink and event-related potential responses to acoustic startle probes were collected. Boldness predicted diminished startle potentiation during aversive picture viewing, and mediated the observed asso-ciation between PCL-R psychopathy scores and aversive blink potentiation. To extend findings for startle blink, analyses of P3 brain responses to noise probe stimuli (known to be modulated by foreground attention-allocation) will be undertaken to evaluate alternative hypotheses as follows: (H0) boldness will be unrelated to differences in attentional processing of affective foregrounds, indicating a primary deficit in emotional reactivity; (H1) high boldness will be associated with reduced attentional modulation of probe-P3 for aversive images, indicating a role of attention in emotional reactivity deficits.

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Psychophysiology, v. 47, issue 1, p. 14-15