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Institute of Child Health, London, UK, 7–8 February 2008
Speakers' short biographies and abstracts, day 1, 7 February 2008
COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE OF PSYCHOPATHY
James Blair is Chief of the Unit on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Programme at NIMH. Dr Blair received a doctoral degree in psychology from University College London in 1993 under the supervision of Professor John Morton. Following graduation he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Mental Health Research Fellowship that he held at the Medical Research Council Cognitive Development Unit for 3 years. Subsequently, he moved to the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. There, with Uta Frith, he helped form and co-lead the Developmental Disorders group, and was ultimately appointed senior lecturer. He joined the NIMH Intramural Research Programme in 2002.
Dr. Blair’s primary research interest involves the neural mechanisms underlying the regulation of emotion in humans, and the neurobiology of anxiety disorder. He is interested in disorders that reflect disturbances in anxiety whether the dysfunction is characterised by reduced levels of anxiety, such as in psychopathy, or in elevated levels of anxiety, such as in social phobia. His research approach includes techniques employed in cognitive neuroscience (both neuropsychology and functional imaging), psychopharmacology and, more recently, molecular genetics. He has published extensively on these areas, including patient groups characterised by psychopathy, “acquired sociopathy”, autism and conduct disorder.
Psychopathy is a developmental disorder marked by emotional hyporesponsiveness and an increased risk for instrumental and reactive aggression. In this paper, I will review the literature on the development of the disorder. Data will be presented showing that there is a substantial genetic contribution to the disorder and preliminary molecular genetics findings will be discussed. The role of social contributions, in determining the individual’s phenotypic presentation, will also be considered. Following this, the functional roles of the principal neural regions implicated in psychopathy, the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, will be discussed. Functional MRI and …