Altered White-Matter Microstructure in Conduct Disorder is Specifically Associated with Elevated Callous-Unemotional Traits

Ignazio Puzzo, Kiran Seunarine, Kate Sully, Angela Darekar, Chris Clark, Edmund Sonuga-Barke, Graeme Fairchild

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27 Citations (SciVal)


Adolescents with conduct disorder (CD) and elevated callous-unemotional (CU) traits have been reported to present with a more severe and persistent pattern of antisocial behaviour than those with low levels of CU traits. However, relatively few studies have investigated whether there are differences in brain structure between these subgroups.We acquired diffusion tensor imaging data and used tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) to compare adolescents with CD and high levels of CU traits (CD/CU+; n= 18, CD and low levels of CU traits (CD/CU-; n=17) and healthy controls (HC; n=32) on measures of fractional anisotropy (FA), axial (AD), radial (RD) and mean (MD) diffusivity. Compared to CD/CU- adolescents, those with CD/CU+ presented increased FA and reduced RD and MD (lower diffusivity) in several tracts including: body and splenium of the corpus callosum, right inferior longitudinal fasciculus, ILF; right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, IFOF; left superior longitudinal fasciculus, SLF; left cerebral peduncle, bilateral internal capsule, left superior and posterior corona radiata, bilateral thalamic radiation and left external capsule. In addition, relative to CD/CU- individuals, adolescents with CD/CU+ showed lower diffusivity (indexed by reduced RD and MD) in left uncinate fasciculus and bilateral fornix. Finally, relative to healthy controls, CD/CU+ individuals showed lower diffusivity (reduced RD) in the genu and body of the corpus callosum and left anterior corona radiata. These results suggest that CD/CU+ individuals present with white-matter microstructural abnormalities compared to both CD/CU- individuals and age-matched healthy controls. This finding is consistent with emerging evidence suggesting that CD/CU+ represents a distinct subtype of CD, and illustrates the importance of accounting for heterogeneity within CD populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1451-1466
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date22 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018


  • Diffusion tensor imaging, tract-based spatial statistics, structural connectivity, Conduct Disorder, callous-unemotional traits, psychopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Psychology(all)


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