New study reveals that causes of severe antisocial behavior may differ for boys and girls

July 21, 2017

The causes of severe antisocial behaviour may differ between boys and girls, which could pave the way for new sex-specific treatments, according to a major new study published today (Friday 21 July).

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-techniques to map the brains of over 200 teenagers aged 14 - 18 years, researchers from the University of Bath (UK) and several other European universities conducted the most comprehensive study ever to analyse differences in brain development between children with conduct disorder (CD) and a group of typically-developing children (the control group).

Findings from the study, which involved 96 young people with CD and 104 typically-developing young people, are published today in the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

They show that the brain's prefrontal cortex - the region responsible for long-term planning, decision-making, and impulse control - is thinner in boys and girls with CD compared to typically-developing boys and girls, and that young people with more severe forms of the condition have more abnormal brain structure.

It also shows that specific areas of the brain differ in structure between boys and girls with antisocial behaviour - for example, some brain areas showed lower cortical thickness in boys with CD, but higher thickness in girls with CD. This highlights, for the first time, that there may be sex differences in the brain-based causes of CD.

CD as a condition is poorly understood and thought to be under-diagnosed and often untreated. Symptoms range from lying and truancy, through to physical violence and weapon use at its more extreme end. It is thought that at least 5% of school age children are affected by the disorder, and it is three times more common in boys than girls. Previous studies have shown that around half of those who develop CD in childhood go on to show serious antisocial behaviour or criminality in adulthood.

Current treatments largely depend on parenting programmes, as the condition is often attributed to poor parenting or growing up in a dysfunctional family. The researchers behind the new study were keen to point out that although sometimes useful, these programmes are not widely available and may not get to the root of the problem. No specific drug treatment exists yet for CD, although ADHD medication, such as Ritalin, is sometimes given.

Senior author from the University of Bath's Department of Psychology, Dr Graeme Fairchild, explains: "Our results indicate that the development of the brain is disrupted in boys and girls with severe antisocial behaviour. These findings suggest that the causes of severe antisocial behaviour, and particularly the biological basis of these behaviours, may differ between boys and girls. This could lead to the development of sex-specific treatments or prevention programmes for at-risk young people."

Lead author, Dr Areti Smaragdi from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, added: "We hope that our findings will prompt other researchers to consider possible sex differences in future studies of antisocial behaviour and other disorders that are more common in boys, such as ADHD. Our findings may also have practical implications for treatment or prevention programmes."
-end-


University of Bath

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.