Atypical Dorsolateral Prefrontal Activity in Female Adolescents With Conduct Disorder During Effortful Emotion Regulation

Nora Maria Raschle, Lynn Valérie Fehlbaum, Willeke Martine Menks, Anne Martinelli, Martin Prätzlich, Anka Bernhard, Katharina Ackermann, Christine M. Freitag, Stephane A. De Brito, Graeme Fairchild, Christina Stadler

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Background: Conduct disorder (CD), which is characterized by severe aggressive and antisocial behavior, is linked to emotion processing and regulation deficits. However, the neural correlates of emotion regulation are yet to be investigated in adolescents with CD. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether CD is associated with deficits in emotional reactivity, emotion regulation, or both. Methods: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study effortful emotion regulation by cognitive reappraisal in 59 female adolescents 15 to 18 years of age (30 with a CD diagnosis and 29 typically developing (TD) control adolescents). Results: Behaviorally, in-scanner self-report ratings confirmed successful emotion regulation within each group individually but significant group differences in emotional reactivity and reappraisal success when comparing the groups (CD < TD). Functional magnetic resonance imaging results revealed significantly lower activation in left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and angular gyrus in CD compared with TD adolescents during emotion regulation, but no group differences for emotional reactivity. Furthermore, connectivity between left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the bilateral putamen, right prefrontal cortex, and amygdala was reduced in CD compared with TD adolescents during reappraisal. Callous-unemotional traits were unrelated to neural activation, but these traits correlated negatively with behavioral reports of emotional reactivity. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate reduced prefrontal brain activity and functional connectivity during effortful emotion regulation in female adolescents with CD. This sheds light on the neural basis of the behavioral deficits that have been reported previously. Future studies should investigate whether cognitive interventions are effective in enhancing emotion-regulation abilities and/or normalizing prefrontal and temporoparietal activity in female adolescents with CD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-994
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number11
Early online date22 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Conduct disorder
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Emotion processing
  • Emotion regulation
  • Female adolescents
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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