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Aggress Behav. 2011 Jul-Aug;37(4):326-37. doi: 10.1002/ab.20396. Epub 2011 May 2.

Neuroanatomy of childhood disruptive behavior disorders.

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  • 1Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Politics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Our aims were to (1) examine possible neuroanatomical abnormalities associated with the Disruptive Behavior Disorders (DBDs) as a group and (2) assess neuroanatomical anomalies specific to each DBD (i.e., conduct disorder [CD] and oppositional defiant disorder). Cortical thickness analysis and voxel-based morphometry were analyzed in 47 8-year-old boys (22 DBDs with and without CD and/or ODD and 25 healthy controls) from Magnetic Resonance Imaging brain scans. DBD symptoms were assessed using the Dominic-R. In DBD subjects relative to controls, we found (1) a decreased overall mean cortical thickness; (2) thinning of the cingulate, prefrontal and insular cortices; and (3) decreased gray matter density (GMd) in the same brain regions. We also found that scores on the Dominic-R were negatively correlated with GMd in the prefrontal and precuneus/superior temporal regions. There was a subdiagnostic main effect for CD, related to thinning of the middle/medial frontal, and for ODD in the left rectal/orbitofrontal. Findings suggest that thinning and decreased GMd of the insula disorganizes prefrontal circuits, diminishing the inhibitory influence of the prefrontal cortex on anger, aggression, cruelty, and impulsivity, and increasing a person's likelihood of aggressive behavior. These findings have implications for pathophysiologic models of the DBDs, their diagnostic classification system, and for designing more effective intervention programs.

© 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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