White-matter tract abnormalities and antisocial behavior: A systematic review of diffusion tensor imaging studies across development

Neuroimage Clin. 2017 Jan 16;14:201-215. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2017.01.014. eCollection 2017.


Antisocial behavior (AB), including aggression, violence, and theft, is thought be underpinned by abnormal functioning in networks of the brain critical to emotion processing, behavioral control, and reward-related learning. To better understand the abnormal functioning of these networks, research has begun to investigate the structural connections between brain regions implicated in AB using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which assesses white-matter tract microstructure. This systematic review integrates findings from 22 studies that examined the relationship between white-matter microstructure and AB across development. In contrast to a prior hypothesis that AB is associated with greater diffusivity specifically in the uncinate fasciculus, findings suggest that adult AB is associated with greater diffusivity across a range of white-matter tracts, including the uncinate fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, cingulum, corticospinal tract, thalamic radiations, and corpus callosum. The pattern of findings among youth studies was inconclusive with both higher and lower diffusivity found across association, commissural, and projection and thalamic tracts.

Keywords: AB, antisocial behavior; AD, axial diffusivity; APD, antisocial personality disorder; Antisocial behavior; CD, conduct disorder; CU, callous-unemotional; Callous-unemotional traits; DMN, default mode network; DTI, diffusion tensor imaging; Diffusion tensor imaging; FA, fractional anisotropy; IFOF, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus; ILF, inferior longitudinal fasciculus; MD, mean diffusivity; Neuroimaging; Psychopathy; RD, radial diffusivity; SLF, superior longitudinal fasciculus; Systematic review; UF, uncinate fasciculus.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • White Matter / growth & development*