Could Brain Scans be the Key to Understanding Antisocial Behaviour?

The Guardian is one of several newspapers which has reported on a new study which could give a new insight into antisocial behaviour.

There are “striking’ structural differences seen in study which compared brain scans of young men with antisocial behavioural problems with their healthy peers,” The Guardian reports.

The results of this research indicate that behavioural problems could have a neurological basis, or at least some dimension.

Scientists used brain scanning techniques to compare the brain structure of groups of male children and adolescents with conduct disorder with matched healthy controls.

The study found that boys who developed conduct disorder before the age of 10 had similarities in overlapping areas of outer brain thickness.

Researchers from the University of Southampton, University of Cambridge, University of Rome, Martinos Centre for Biomedical Imaging in Boston, Harvard Medical School, Gent University, Columbia University, the University of Bologna and the Medical Research Council worked on the study.

It was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, and Southampton and Cambridge Universities, and is published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry on an open-access basis, so you can read the paper for free online.

Several newspapers gave coverage to this issue, as the researchers involved seem to have discovered something that provides a different perspective on antisocial disorders.

The researchers state that their results suggest that both child and adolescent-onset conduct disorder “are associated with changes in the synchronised development of the brain”.

They suggest that this demonstrates that “neurobiological factors” are important contributors to the development of conduct disorder, whether in childhood or adolescence.

This indicates that brain scans might be of use in testing treatments for conduct disorder in the future.

Undoubtedly the study raises interesting questions about the way children’s brains develop.

However, it doesn’t provide any specific answers as to why such changes may occur.

The results suggest there are differences in the development of these children’s brains, which may play a part in their condition.

But the nature of this observational study means that it is impossible to assert at this stage whether the brain differences are the cause of the conduct disorder.

Also, the study solely assessed boys, but there has been no investigation whatsoever into the same phenomenon with girls.

Until the causes are better understood, it will be difficult to find useful treatments, but this study could be a useful starting point in treating antisocial disorders in a new and innovative way.


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