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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2009 Mar;4(1):1-9. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsn035. Epub 2008 Oct 19.

Right ventromedial prefrontal cortex: a neuroanatomical correlate of impulse control in boys.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.


Emerging data on the neural mechanisms of impulse control highlight brain regions involved in emotion and decision making, including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and amygdala. Variation in the development of these regions may influence one's propensity for impulsivity and, by extension, one's vulnerability to disorders involving low impulse control (e.g. substance abuse). Here we test the hypothesis that lower impulse control is associated with structural differences in these regions, particularly on the right side, in 61 normal healthy boys aged 7-17. We assessed parent- and teacher-reported behavioral ratings of impulse control (motor impulsivity and non-planning behavior) in relation to vmPFC, ACC and amygdala volume, measured using structural magnetic resonance imaging and FreeSurfer. A regression analysis showed that the right vmPFC was a significant predictor of impulse control ratings. Follow-up tests showed (i) a significant correlation between low impulse control and decreased right vmPFC volume, especially the medial sector of the vmPFC and (ii) significantly lower right vmPFC volume in a subgroup of 20 impulsive boys relative to 20 non-impulsive boys. These results are consistent with the notion that right vmPFC provides a neuroanatomical correlate of the normal variance in impulse control observed in boys.

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