DTI-measured white matter abnormalities in adolescents with Conduct Disorder

Emily Haney-Caron, Arvind Caprihan, Michael C Stevens
Journal of Psychiatric Research 2014, 48 (1): 111-20
Emerging research suggests that antisocial behavior in youth is linked to abnormal brain white matter microstructure, but the extent of such anatomical connectivity abnormalities remain largely untested because previous Conduct Disorder (CD) studies typically have selectively focused on specific frontotemporal tracts. This study aimed to replicate and extend previous frontotemporal diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) findings to determine whether noncomorbid CD adolescents have white matter microstructural abnormalities in major white matter tracts across the whole brain. Seventeen CD-diagnosed adolescents recruited from the community were compared to a group of 24 non-CD youth which did not differ in average age (12-18) or gender proportion. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) fractional anisotropy (FA), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) measurements were compared between groups using FSL nonparametric two-sample t test, clusterwise whole-brain corrected, p < .05. CD FA and AD deficits were widespread, but unrelated to gender, verbal ability, or CD age of onset. CD adolescents had significantly lower FA and AD values in frontal lobe and temporal lobe regions, including frontal lobe anterior/superior corona radiata, and inferior longitudinal and fronto-occipital fasciculi passing through the temporal lobe. The magnitude of several CD FA deficits was associated with number of CD symptoms. Because AD, but not RD, differed between study groups, abnormalities of axonal microstructure in CD rather than myelination are suggested. This study provides evidence that adolescent antisocial disorder is linked to abnormal white matter microstructure in more than just the uncinate fasciculus as identified in previous DTI studies, or frontotemporal brain structures as suggested by functional neuroimaging studies. Instead, neurobiological risk specific to antisociality in adolescence is linked to microstructural abnormality in numerous long-range white matter connections among many diverse different brain regions.

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