Children with conduct disorder have brains that are wired differently

Science Daily | April 2018 |Brains of young people with severe behavioral problems are ‘wired differently’

A new study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience could help to explain why young people with conduct disorder struggle to control and regulate their emotions.  Conduct disorder (CD) is characterised by symptoms that can include lying and truancy as well as  physical violence. 

The disorder is under researched and  the research team aimed to understand how the brains of young people with CD differ to others adolescents.  The scientists had previously hypothesized that youths with the disorder may have impaired or dysfunctional amygdala. To further this understanding the team analysed brains of both groups, observing that their amygdala responses  to angry and sad faces  showed  lower amygdala responses than other adolescents (via Science Daily).
Dr Graeme Fairchild, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath said: “This study shows that there may be important differences between youths with high and low levels of psychopathic traits in the way the brain is wired. The findings could have clinical implications, because they suggest that psychological treatments that enhance emotion regulation abilities are likely to be more effective in the youths with Conduct Disorder alone, than in the psychopathic subgroup.”


There is accumulating evidence that youths with antisocial behavior or psychopathic traits show deficits in facial emotion recognition, but little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying these impairments. A number of neuroimaging studies have investigated brain activity during facial emotion processing in youths with Conduct Disorder (CD) and adults with psychopathy, but few of these studies tested for group differences in effective connectivity—i.e. changes in connectivity during emotion processing. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and psycho-physiological interaction methods, we investigated the impact of CD and psychopathic traits on amygdala activity and effective connectivity in 46 male youths with CD and 25 typically-developing controls when processing emotional faces. All participants were aged 16–21 years. Relative to controls, youths with CD showed reduced amygdala activity when processing angry or sad faces relative to neutral faces, but the groups did not significantly differ in amygdala-related effective connectivity. In contrast, psychopathic traits were negatively correlated with amygdala–ventral anterior cingulate cortex connectivity for angry vs neutral faces, but were unrelated to amygdala responses to angry or sad faces. These findings suggest that CD and psychopathic traits have differential effects on amygdala activation and functional interactions between limbic regions during facial emotion processing.Full reference:
Michael P Ewbank, M.P., Passamonti, L.,  Hagan, C.C, Goodyer, I.M., Calder, A.J., Fairchild, G. |Psychopathic traits influence amygdala–anterior cingulate cortex connectivity during facial emotion processing | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsy019

The full article can be viewed  at Oxford Academic 



The MQ Brighter Futures Programme

New Mental Health research programme and awareness-raising initiative | MQ

A new programme of research, bringing together scientists, clinicians, people with experience of mental health problems and partner organisations is being established to address three of the most pressing challenges in young people’s mental health:

  • Understanding how mental illness develops.
  • Learning how to identify which young people are most at risk.
  • Developing effective interventions for young people and ensuring they are delivered in practice.

MQ’s manifesto for young people’s mental health charts a path forward – identifying how the general public, researchers, and government can come together to make the vision of transforming young people’s mental health a reality.

Visit the MQ website for more information.

The other one in four – how financial difficulty is neglected in mental health services

The other one in four – how financial difficulty is neglected in mental health services | The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute


This report assesses the extent to which mental health services recognise and respond to this relationship between financial difficulty and mental health problems. The publication explores where there are gaps in existing provision and where better coordination could improve services for people with mental health problems who are experiencing financial difficulty.

A review of recent evidence into children and young people’s mental health

Missed opportunities: a review of recent evidence into children and young people’s mental health
Centre For Mental Health, 7 June 2016

Image source:

This document seeks to piece together the evidence about children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing in the UK, based on the most recent high quality research.

It breaks down findings into four age groups: pregnancy to age 4; children aged 5-10, 11-15 year olds, and young adults aged 16-25.

For all age groups, a dominant issue has been the persistent gap between children’s needs and their access to help and support, especially early on when difficulties with mental health first emerge.

Non-pharmacological interventions for ADHD delivered in school settings

The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions delivered in school settings for pupils with, or at risk of, ADHD and to explore the factors that may enhance, or limit, their delivery.

54 studies that evaluated school interventions were found. Overall, these interventions appeared to reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattentiveness, and improve some measures of problem behaviours, school skills and achievement. Short-term interventions seemed to be more beneficial than longer-term ones, and strategies targeting social skills did not seem particularly helpful.

Full reference: Richardson, M et al.  Non-pharmacological interventions for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) delivered in school settings: systematic reviews of quantitative and qualitative research. Health Technology Assessment Volume: 19 Issue: 45