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Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Aug 1;70(3):283-90. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.03.015. Epub 2011 Apr 30.

Right anterior cingulate cortical thickness and bilateral striatal volume correlate with child behavior checklist aggressive behavior scores in healthy children.

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  • 1McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, 3801 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and basal ganglia have been implicated in pathological aggression. This study aimed at identifying neuroanatomical correlates of impulsive aggression in healthy children.


Data from 193 representative 6- to 18-year-old healthy children were obtained from the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Normal Brain Development after a blinded quality control. Cortical thickness and subcortical volumes were obtained with automated software. Aggression levels were measured with the Aggressive Behavior scale (AGG) of the Child Behavior Checklist. AGG scores were regressed against cortical thickness and basal ganglia volumes using first- and second-order linear models while controlling for age, gender, scanner site, and total brain volume. Gender by AGG interactions were analyzed.


There were positive associations between bilateral striatal volumes and AGG scores (right: r = .238, p = .001; left: r = .188, p = .01). A significant association was found with right ACC and subgenual ACC cortical thickness in a second-order linear model (p < .05, corrected). High AGG scores were associated with a relatively thin right ACC cortex. An AGG by gender interaction trend was found in bilateral OFC and ACC associations with AGG scores.


This study shows the existence of relationships between impulsive aggression in healthy children and the structure of the striatum and right ACC. It also suggests the existence of gender-specific patterns of association in OFC/ACC gray matter. These results may guide research on oppositional-defiant and conduct disorders.

Copyright © 2011 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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