Psychopathy is a distinct subtype of antisocial personality disorder that is associated with a pronounced lack of emotion — psychopathic individuals are described as lacking fear, shame, remorse, and empathy toward others. Psychopathy has been associated with severe antisocial behavior and high rates of criminal recidivism, making it a particularly important area of study. Recent research has begun to uncover several biological markers that may be important in the etiology and maintenance of the disorder. One such example is hormones. Hormones are biological markers that may be of particular importance because they can affect brain functioning as well as be an indicator of brain functioning. Hormones are also relatively easy to measure and could be potential targets for treatment. Hormones such as cortisol and testosterone have been associated with several features that are observed in psychopathy, including blunted stress reactivity, fearlessness, aggression, and stimulation seeking. In this chapter, the research on hormones in psychopathy will be discussed, including how hormones such as cortisol and testosterone might impact the development and maintenance of psychopathic features, and how hormones contribute to current neurobiological theories of psychopathy. In addition, the salivary enzyme alpha-amylase, a biomarker for the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, will be discussed as a prospect for future research. Finally, the implications of future hormone research in psychopathy for intervention and treatment will be discussed.


Psychopathy antisocial hormone cortisol estosterone 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea L. Glenn
    • 1
  1. 1.M.A., Doctoral StudentUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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