Externalizing psychopathology has been linked to prefrontal abnormalities. While clinically diagnosed subjects show altered frontal gray matter, it is unknown if similar deficits relate to externalizing traits in non-clinical populations. We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to retrospectively analyze the cerebral gray matter volume of 176 young adult social to heavy drinkers (mean age=24.0±2.9, male=83.5%) from studies of alcoholism risk. We hypothesized that prefrontal gray matter volume and externalizing traits would be correlated. Externalizing personality trait components-Boredom Susceptibility-Impulsivity (BS/IMP) and Empathy/Low Antisocial Behaviors (EMP/LASB)-were tested for correlations with gray matter partial volume estimates (gmPVE). Significantly large clusters (pFWE<0.05, family-wise whole-brain corrected) of gmPVE correlated with EMP/LASB in dorsolateral and medial prefrontal regions, and in occipital cortex. BS/IMP did not correlate with gmPVE, but one scale of impulsivity (Eysenck I7) correlated positively with bilateral inferior frontal/orbitofrontal, and anterior insula gmPVE. In this large sample of community-dwelling young adults, antisocial behavior/low empathy corresponded with reduced prefrontal and occipital gray matter, while impulsivity correlated with increased inferior frontal and anterior insula cortical volume. These findings add to a literature indicating that externalizing personality features involve altered frontal architecture.
- Frontal lobes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Psychiatry and Mental health