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Clin Psychol Rev. 2009 Aug;29(6):506-18. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.06.001. Epub 2009 Jun 7.

Contextualizing the neurobiology of conduct disorder in an emotion dysregulation framework.

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  • 1Psychology Department, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada M3J 1P3. catcap@yorku.ca


Conduct disorder (CD) represents the most common childhood psychiatric disorder found in community and mental health clinics. This paper provides a comprehensive review of the neurobiology of CD; specifically, neurological and neurochemical correlates. Converging evidence suggests that neurological profiles of individuals with CD, compared to peers, are characterized by reduced P300 brain wave amplitude, deactivation of the anterior cingulated cortex and reduced activation in the left amygdala in response to negative stimuli, and reduced right temporal lobe volume. The neurochemical profiles of individuals with CD are characterized by reduced serotonin and cortisol levels (i.e., decreased HPA axis function), as well as attenuated autonomic nervous system functioning. Popular theoretical frameworks cited within the CD literature are limited in their ability to explain and consolidate the neurological and neurochemical findings. We believe that emotion dysregulation theory, though not often used within CD research, may provide the most comprehensive and inclusive framework for understanding neurobiological aspects of this disorder. Limitations within the literature, future directions for research, and implications of the findings will be discussed.

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