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Sex Differences in the Relationship Between Conduct Disorder and Cortical Structure in Adolescents

Smaragdi, A., Cornwell, H., Toschi, N. , Riccelli, R., Gonzalez-Madruga, K., Wells, A., Clanton, R., Baker, R., Rogers, J., Martin-Key, N., Puzzo, I. ORCID: 0000-0002-4480-5519, Batchelor, M., Sidlauskaite, J., Bernhard, A., Martinelli, A., Kohls, G., Konrad, K., Baumann, S., Raschle, N., Stadler, C., Freitag, C., Sonuga-Barke, E. J. S., De Brito, S. & Fairchild, G. (2017). Sex Differences in the Relationship Between Conduct Disorder and Cortical Structure in Adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(8), pp. 703-712. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2017.05.015


Previous studies have reported reduced cortical thickness and surface area and altered gyrification in frontal and temporal regions in adolescents with conduct disorder (CD). Although there is evidence that the clinical phenotype of CD differs between males and females, no studies have examined whether such sex differences extend to cortical and subcortical structure.

As part of a European multisite study (FemNAT-CD), structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were collected from 48 female and 48 male participants with CD and from 104 sex-, age-, and pubertal-status−matched controls (14–18 years of age). Data were analyzed using surface-based morphometry, testing for effects of sex, diagnosis, and sex-by-diagnosis interactions, while controlling for age, IQ, scan site, and total gray matter volume.

CD was associated with cortical thinning and higher gyrification in ventromedial prefrontal cortex in both sexes. Males with CD showed lower, and females with CD showed higher, supramarginal gyrus cortical thickness compared with controls. Relative to controls, males with CD showed higher gyrification and surface area in superior frontal gyrus, whereas the opposite pattern was seen in females. There were no effects of diagnosis or sex-by-diagnosis interactions on subcortical volumes. Results are discussed with regard to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, and substance abuse comorbidity, medication use, handedness, and CD age of onset.

We found both similarities and differences between males and females in CD–cortical structure associations. This initial evidence that the pathophysiological basis of CD may be partly sex-specific highlights the need to consider sex in future neuroimaging studies and suggests that males and females may require different treatments.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: conduct disorder, antisocial behavior, sex differences, brain structure, surface-based morphometry
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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