THE brains of young people who display the most severe forms of anti-social behaviour are ‘wired differently’ to their peers, researchers say.
The findings offer clues as to why they struggle to control their emotions, which in turn can lead to lying, physical violence and even using weapons.
Teams from the universities of Bath, Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology looked at brain scans of adolescents with conduct disorder.
They focused on the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in understanding the emotions of others. Previous studies suggested adolescents with the disorder struggle to recognise angry and sad facial expressions, and the researchers found they had significantly lower amygdala responses to them.
They also showed abnormal connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex — the region responsible for decision-making and behavioural inhibition. However, youths with conduct disorder who also had psychopathic traits — which means they lack guilt, remorse and empathy — had normal connectivity between these areas.
Researchers say it could help explain why young people with the condition struggle to control and regulate their emotions, which may make them more susceptible to anxiety or depression.
The teams hope their findings, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience can be used to create more targeted interventions.
■ GROWING up in a rural setting with pets and farm animals is good for mental health, a study claims. Being close to animals and bacteria-laden dust appears to promote stress-resilient immune systems, reducing the risk of depression, according to the US-German study. Researchers say it supports the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ — that overly sterile environments can lead to health problems.