PublicationsCan psychopathy be prevented?
The aim of the study was to explore the relationship among brain functional activations elicited by an emotional paradigm, clinical scores (PTSD, anxiety, and depression), psychopathic traits, and genetic characteristics (5-HTTLPR) in a group of severely maltreated children compared to a healthy control group before and after the implementation of a Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The final sample consisted of an experimental group of 14 maltreated children (mean age = 8.77 years old, S.D. = 1.83) recruited from a non-governmental shelter in Mexico City for children who had experienced child abuse and a control group of 10 children from the general population (mean age = 9.57 years old, S.D. = 1.91). Both groups were matched according to age and gender and were assessed before and after the implementation of the aforementioned therapy by means of clinical scales and an emotional paradigm that elicited brain activations which were recorded through functional magnetic resonance imaging. Genotyping of the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism was made at first assessment. A region of interest analysis showed amygdala hyperactivation during exposure to fear and anger stimuli in the maltreated children before treatment. Following therapy, a decrease in brain activity as well as a decrease in clinical symptoms were also observed. 5-HTTLPR polymorphism did not show any effect on the severity of clinical symptoms in maltreated children. Trauma-Focused Behavioral Therapy may help reorganize the brain’s processing of emotional stimuli. These observations reveal the importance of an early intervention when the mechanisms of neuroplasticity may be still recruited.