Cortical and subcortical abnormalities in youths with conduct disorder and elevated callous-unemotional traits

Gregory L. Wallace, Stuart F. White, Briana Robustelli, Stephen Sinclair, Soonjo Hwang, Alex Martin, R. James R. Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Objective Although there is growing evidence of brain abnormalities among individuals with conduct disorder (CD), the structural neuroimaging literature is mixed and frequently aggregates cortical volume rather than differentiating cortical thickness from surface area. The current study assesses CD-related differences in cortical thickness, surface area, and gyrification as well as volume differences in subcortical structures critical to neurodevelopmental models of CD (amygdala; striatum) in a carefully characterized sample. We also examined whether group structural differences were related to severity of callous-unemotional (CU) traits in the CD sample. Method Participants were 49 community adolescents aged 10 to 18 years, 22 with CD and 27 healthy comparison youth. Structural MRI was collected and the FreeSurfer image analysis suite was used to provide measures of cortical thickness, surface area, and local gyrification as well as subcortical (amygdala and striatum) volumes. Results Youths with CD showed reduced cortical thickness in the superior temporal cortex. There were also indications of reduced gyrification in the ventromedial frontal cortex, particularly for youths with CD without comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. There were no group differences in cortical surface area. However, youths with CD also showed reduced amygdala and striatum (putamen and pallidum) volumes. Right temporal cortical thickness was significantly inversely related to severity of CU traits. Conclusions Youths with CD show reduced cortical thickness within superior temporal regions, some indication of reduced gyrification within ventromedial frontal cortex and reduced amygdala and striatum (putamen and pallidum) volumes. These results are discussed with reference to neurobiological models of CD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-465.e1
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • amygdala
  • antisocial
  • conduct disorder
  • cortical thickness
  • striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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