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January 2011



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Article Date: 06 Jul 2010 – 5:00 PDT

Brain abnormalities rather than peer pressure could be the key underlying factor behind severe antisocial and aggressive behaviour in teenagers according to research by scientists at the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the University of Cambridge.

Conduct Disorder (CD) is a psychiatric condition associated with heightened antisocial and aggressive behaviour that affects five teenagers out of every 100 in the UK. It can develop either in childhood or in adolescence. While the childhood-onset form has been linked to abnormal brain function, the root of the adolescence-onset condition was previously thought to be the imitation of antisocial peers.

In a study jointly funded by the MRC and the Wellcome Trust, scientists used an advanced brain scanning technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure and analyse the brain activity of teenage boys with either childhood-onset or adolescence-onset CD while they were shown images of angry, sad and neutral faces.

In both forms of the condition, the scan showed very similar patterns of brain abnormality compared with teenagers without the disorder. In both types of CD, the scans showed sufferers had less activity in the areas of the brain responsible for processing emotions. This may explain why teenagers with CD are insensitive to the distress of others and to social signals of aggression. The scientists also found that the more severe the aggression and antisocial behaviour in the teenagers, the greater the level of brain abnormality.

Dr Andy Calder from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, who led the research said:

“We know it costs the Government ten times as much to support a child with Conduct Disorder into adulthood, compared to a normal child. We also know that kids with these disorders are at far greater risk of developing a range of mental and physical health problems in later life. There are few effective Conduct Disorder treatments, so collaborative research like this, which really sheds light on the brain processes behind why and how these disorders emerge, is really important if we’re to help sufferers and their families.”

Read in Full:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/193896.php

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