JUL 25, 2017 2:51 PM PDT

Sex Differences in the Brains of Antisocial Adolescents

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

A new study suggests that sex differences should be taken into account when determining treatments for severe antisocial behavior. The study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the brains of over 200 teenagers; it was reported in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Learn more about the research from the following video.

Scientists at the University of Bath (UK) and other universities in Europe looked at the differences in the brains of 104 normal kids aged 14 - 18, and 96 adolescents of the same age that had been diagnosed with conduct disorder (CD). They found that the area of the brain responsible for making decisions, controlling impulses, and making long-term plans, the prefrontal cortex, was thinner in both boys and girls with CD compared to kids without CD. In more severe cases of the disorder, the abnormalities in the brain structure were more pronounced.

The investigators also found that the structural problems in girls and boys with CD were different. Some regions of the cortex were thinner in boys with CD, while those regions were thicker in girls with CD. That suggests that the causes of CD may be different in males and females.

"Our results indicate that the development of the brain is disrupted in boys and girls with severe antisocial behavior. These findings suggest that the causes of severe antisocial behavior, and particularly the biological basis of these behaviors, may differ between boys and girls,” explained the senior author of the work, Dr. Graeme Fairchild of the University of Bath's Department of Psychology. “This could lead to the development of sex-specific treatments or prevention programs for at-risk young people."

CD is not well defined or understood; it may be under-diagnosed and by extension, untreated. Some estimates suggest five percent of school age children are affected, and it is also thought to be more common in boys than girls. Other research has indicated that about half of the individuals who are affected by CD in childhood go on to have very serious antisocial problems or become criminals as adults.

MRI / Credit: Wikimedia/Forma39

There are limited treatment options; they rely on family dynamics because the condition is often associated with dysfunctional families. While these treatment programs have potential, the researchers stressed that they are not easily available, and might not be addressing the root problems for those individuals that can participate. While Ritalin is sometimes prescribed, there is not a defined CD drug treatment.

"We hope that our findings will prompt other researchers to consider possible sex differences in future studies of antisocial behavior and other disorders that are more common in boys, such as ADHD. Our findings may also have practical implications for treatment or prevention programs,” said lead author Dr. Areti Smaragdi of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada.

 

Sources: Science Daily via University of Bath, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Even When They're Outside the Brain, Infections Worsen Alzheimer's
JUN 04, 2021
Even When They're Outside the Brain, Infections Worsen Alzheimer's
It's thought that inflammation is closely connected to cognitive decline, and neuroinflammation plays a role role in the ...
JUN 14, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Can An Omega-3 Fatty Acid Destroy Tumors?
JUN 14, 2021
Can An Omega-3 Fatty Acid Destroy Tumors?
The body needs fatty acts for a variety of functions, and the health benefits of taking fatty acid supplements have long ...
JUN 28, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
The 'Imprint' of Mom and Dad
JUN 28, 2021
The 'Imprint' of Mom and Dad
We carry two copies of each non-sex chromosome, and thus, two copies of most genes. For simplicity's sake, it's ...
JUL 13, 2021
Microbiology
Expanding Viral Populations May be More Adaptable Than We Knew
JUL 13, 2021
Expanding Viral Populations May be More Adaptable Than We Knew
In nature, growing populations from bacterial colonies to humans tend to expand. In pulled expansions, the individuals a ...
JUL 16, 2021
Coronavirus
Focusing on the Cause of Neurological Symptoms of COVID-19
JUL 16, 2021
Focusing on the Cause of Neurological Symptoms of COVID-19
We now know that COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms. Some of these problems are taking months to clear up in patient ...
JUL 18, 2021
Microbiology
Alarming Rise in Antibiotic Resistance Among Bangladeshi Kids with Pneumonia
JUL 18, 2021
Alarming Rise in Antibiotic Resistance Among Bangladeshi Kids with Pneumonia
Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat to public health, and experts have been warning about it for so long, they've ...
Loading Comments...