Refractoriness of aggressive behaviour to pharmacological treatment: cortical thickness analysis in autism spectrum disorder

BJPsych Open. 2020 Aug 7;6(5):e85. doi: 10.1192/bjo.2020.71.


Aggressive behaviour is a highly prevalent and devastating condition in autism spectrum disorder resulting in impoverished quality of life. Gold-standard therapies are ineffective in about 30% of patients leading to greater suffering. We investigated cortical thickness in individuals with autism spectrum disorder with pharmacological-treatment-refractory aggressive behaviour compared with those with non-refractory aggressive behaviour and observed a brain-wide pattern of local increased thickness in key areas related to emotional control and overall decreased cortical thickness in those with refractory aggressive behaviour, suggesting refractoriness could be related to specific morphological patterns. Elucidating the neurobiology of refractory aggressive behaviour is crucial to provide insights and potential avenues for new interventions.

Keywords: Autistic spectrum disorders; aggressive behaviour; cortical thickness; intellectual disability; neuroimaging.