Youths with conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder and psychopathic traits (CD/ODD+PT) are at high risk of adult antisocial behavior and psychopathy. Neuroimaging studies demonstrate functional abnormalities in orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala in both youths and adults with psychopathic traits. Diffusion tensor imaging in psychopathic adults demonstrates disrupted structural connectivity between these regions (uncinate fasiculus). The current study examined whether functional neural abnormalities present in youths with CD/ODD+PT are associated with similar white matter abnormalities. Youths with CD/ODD+PT and comparison participants completed 3.0 T diffusion tensor scans and functional magnetic resonance imaging scans. Diffusion tensor imaging did not reveal disruption in structural connections within the uncinate fasiculus or other white matter tracts in youths with CD/ODD+PT, despite the demonstration of disrupted amygdala-prefrontal functional connectivity in these youths. These results suggest that disrupted amygdala-frontal white matter connectivity as measured by fractional anisotropy is less sensitive than imaging measurements of functional perturbations in youths with psychopathic traits. If white matter tracts are intact in youths with this disorder, childhood may provide a critical window for intervention and treatment, before significant structural brain abnormalities solidify.
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