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Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Jan 1;57(1):7-15.

Abnormal neural responses to emotional visual stimuli in adolescents with conduct disorder.

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  • 1Departments of Neurology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.



It is widely held that aggression and antisocial behavior arise as a consequence of a deficiency in responding to emotional cues in the social environment. We asked whether neural responses evoked by affect-laden pictures would be abnormal in adolescents with conduct disorder (CD).


Functional magnetic resonance imaging during passive viewing of pictures with neutral or strong negative affective valence was performed in 13 male adolescents with severe CD aged 9 to 15 years and in 14 healthy age-matched control subjects.


Main effects for negative-neutral affective valence included activations in the amygdala and hippocampus, ventral extrastriate visual cortex, and intraparietal sulcus bilaterally. There was a significant group-by-condition interaction in the right dorsal anterior cingulate cortex that was due to a pronounced deactivation in the patient group during viewing of negative pictures. When correcting for anxiety and depressive symptoms, we additionally found a reduced responsiveness of the left amygdala to negative pictures in patients compared with control subjects.


We suggest that these findings reflect an impairment of both the recognition of emotional stimuli and the cognitive control of emotional behavior in patients with CD, resulting in a propensity for aggressive behavior.

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