Teens with Conduct Disorder May Have Different Brains

By Staff Writer

Young people who are forced to seek treatment from drug rehab and mental health facilities for antisocial behavior or conduct disorder may actually have physical differences in certain brain structures, according to a new study from the University of Cambridge.

The researchers took brain scans of 65 teenage boys who displayed symptoms of conduct disorder and compared the results to scans from 27 normal teens. The images showed that participants with the condition had significantly smaller amygdala and insula regions, which are two areas of the brain that are associated with emotions and empathy.

The findings provide a neurological basis for a problem that was believed to be caused mostly by individuals imitating observed bad behavior, the researchers said. This could help doctors identify young people who are likely to suffer from conduct disorder at an early age and enable them to seek treatment.

About 5 percent of teenagers are affected by conduct disorder, which puts them at a greater risk of developing further physical and mental health problems, the researchers added.