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Keywords:

  • disruptive behavior disorder;
  • oppositional defiance disorder;
  • conduct disorder;
  • cortical thickness;
  • voxel-based morphometry

Abstract

Our aims were to (1) examine possible neuroanatomical abnormalities associated with the Disruptive Behavior Disorders (DBDs) as a group and (2) assess neuroanatomical anomalies specific to each DBD (i.e., conduct disorder [CD] and oppositional defiant disorder). Cortical thickness analysis and voxel-based morphometry were analyzed in 47 8-year-old boys (22 DBDs with and without CD and/or ODD and 25 healthy controls) from Magnetic Resonance Imaging brain scans. DBD symptoms were assessed using the Dominic-R. In DBD subjects relative to controls, we found (1) a decreased overall mean cortical thickness; (2) thinning of the cingulate, prefrontal and insular cortices; and (3) decreased gray matter density (GMd) in the same brain regions. We also found that scores on the Dominic-R were negatively correlated with GMd in the prefrontal and precuneus/superior temporal regions. There was a subdiagnostic main effect for CD, related to thinning of the middle/medial frontal, and for ODD in the left rectal/orbitofrontal. Findings suggest that thinning and decreased GMd of the insula disorganizes prefrontal circuits, diminishing the inhibitory influence of the prefrontal cortex on anger, aggression, cruelty, and impulsivity, and increasing a person's likelihood of aggressive behavior. These findings have implications for pathophysiologic models of the DBDs, their diagnostic classification system, and for designing more effective intervention programs. Aggr. Behav. 37:326–337, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.