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Objective: Children with the early-onset type of conduct disorder (CD) are at high risk for developing an antisocial personality disorder. Although there have been several neuroimaging studies on morphometric differences in adults with antisocial personality disorder, little is known about structural brain aberrations in boys with CD.

Method: Magnetic resonance imaging and voxel-based morphometry were used to assess abnormalities in gray matter volumes in 23 boys ages 12 to 17 years with CD (17 comorbid for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) in comparison with age- and IQ-matched controls.

Results: Compared with healthy controls, mean gray matter volume was 6% smaller in the clinical group. Compared with controls, reduced gray matter volumes were found in the left orbitofrontal region and bilaterally in the temporal lobes, including the amygdala and hippocampus on the left side in the CD group. Regression analyses in the clinical group indicated an inverse association of hyperactive/impulsive symptoms and widespread gray matter abnormalities in the frontoparietal and temporal cortices. By contrast, CD symptoms correlated primarily with gray matter reductions in limbic brain structures.

Conclusions: The data suggest that boys with CD and comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder show brain abnormalities in frontolimbic areas that resemble structural brain deficits, which are typically observed in adults with antisocial behavior.

Copyright 2008 (C) American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry