Wellcome Trust TeenagerAntisocial behavior among teenagers is often linked with being a part of the wrong crowd. Experts from the Medical Research Council underline those young adults with conduct disorder who exhibit a strange layout of the brain in contrast with their peers without the disorder.

Conduct disorder is known to be a psychiatric condition related with sharp antisocial and aggressive behaviour that seemingly affects five teenagers out of every 100 in the UK. It can rise either in childhood or in adolescence. Abnormal brain function was associated with the childhood-onset form. The main cause of adolescence-onset condition was formerly thought to be the replication of antisocial peers.

Advanced brain-scanning method known as functional magnetic resonance imaging was used by experts to evaluate the brain activity of teenage boys. These boys faced either childhood-onset or adolescence-onset conduct disorder. They were also shown images of irate, gloomy and neutral faces.

Dr Andy Calder from the MRC Unit, who led the research, shares, “We know it costs the government ten times as much to support a child with conduct disorder into adulthood, compared to a normal child. We also know that kids with these disorders are at far greater risk of developing a range of mental and physical health problems in later life. There are few effective conduct disorder treatments, so collaborative research like this, which really sheds light on the brain processes behind why and how these disorders emerge, is really important if we’re to help sufferers and their families.”

Teenagers with the above mentioned conditions displayed similar patterns of brain abnormality compared to teenagers free from the disorder. Less activity in areas of the brain responsible for processing emotions in both conduct disorders was revealed by scans. This seemingly highlights teenagers with conduct disorder are numb to others’ distress and social signals of aggression. The level of brain abnormality augmented greater aggression and antisocial behavior among teenagers according to the investigators.

Professor Ian Goodyer, co-author on the paper and Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge elucidates, “This work breaks new ground in our understanding of the neurobiology of one of the most prevalent and difficult mental health problems in our society. The information will inform the development of early detection and intervention strategies in children at risk for antisocial behaviour”.

This study enlisted 75 males aged between 16 and 21 years and were classified into three groups. These groups specifically included 27 individuals with childhood-onset conduct disorder, 25 with adolescence-onset conduct disorder and 23 healthy males as a control group.

The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.