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Am J Psychiatry. 2009 Jan;166(1):95-102. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.07071050. Epub 2008 Oct 15.

Amygdala hypoactivity to fearful faces in boys with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits.

Author information

  • 1Medical Research Council's Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Department of Forensic Mental Health, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Although early-onset conduct problems predict both psychiatric and health problems in adult life, little research has been done to index neural correlates of conduct problems. Emerging research suggests that a subgroup of children with conduct problems and elevated levels of callous-unemotional traits may be genetically vulnerable to manifesting disturbances in neural reactivity to emotional stimuli indexing distress. Using functional MRI, the authors evaluated differences in neural response to emotional stimuli between boys with conduct problems and elevated levels of callous-unemotional traits and comparison boys.

METHOD:

Seventeen boys with conduct problems and elevated levels of callous-unemotional traits and 13 comparison boys of equivalent age (mean=11 years) and IQ (mean=100) viewed blocked presentations of fearful and neutral faces. For each face, participants distinguished the sex of the face via manual response.

RESULTS:

Relative to the comparison group, boys with conduct problems and elevated levels of callous-unemotional traits manifested lesser right amygdala activity to fearful faces.

CONCLUSIONS:

This finding is in line with data from studies of adults with antisocial behavior and callous-unemotional traits (i.e., psychopaths), as well as from a recent study of adolescents with callous-unemotional traits, and suggests that the neural substrates of emotional impairment associated with callous-unemotional antisocial behavior are already present in childhood.

PMID:
18923070
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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