Disorganized Amygdala Networks in Conduct-Disordered Juvenile Offenders With Callous-Unemotional Traits

Moji Aghajani*, Eduard T. Klapwijk, Nic J. van der Wee, Ilya M. Veer, Serge A.R.B. Rombouts, Albert E. Boon, Peter van Beelen, Arne Popma, Robert R.J.M. Vermeiren, Olivier F. Colins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background The developmental trajectory of psychopathy seemingly begins early in life and includes the presence of callous-unemotional (CU) traits (e.g., deficient emotional reactivity, callousness) in conduct-disordered (CD) youth. Though subregion-specific anomalies in amygdala function have been suggested in CU pathophysiology among antisocial populations, system-level studies of CU traits have typically examined the amygdala as a unitary structure. Hence, nothing is yet known of how amygdala subregional network function may contribute to callous-unemotionality in severely antisocial people. Methods We addressed this important issue by uniquely examining the intrinsic functional connectivity of basolateral amygdala (BLA) and centromedial amygdala (CMA) networks across three matched groups of juveniles: CD offenders with CU traits (CD/CU+; n = 25), CD offenders without CU traits (CD/CU−; n = 25), and healthy control subjects (n = 24). We additionally examined whether perturbed amygdala subregional connectivity coincides with altered volume and shape of the amygdaloid complex. Results Relative to CD/CU− and healthy control youths, CD/CU+ youths showed abnormally increased BLA connectivity with a cluster that included both dorsal and ventral portions of the anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortices, along with posterior cingulate, sensory associative, and striatal regions. In contrast, compared with CD/CU− and healthy control youths, CD/CU+ youths showed diminished CMA connectivity with ventromedial/orbitofrontal regions. Critically, these connectivity changes coincided with local hypotrophy of BLA and CMA subregions (without being statistically correlated) and were associated to more severe CU symptoms. Conclusions These findings provide unique insights into a putative mechanism for perturbed attention-emotion interactions, which could bias salience processing and associative learning in youth with CD/CU+.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-293
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Volume82
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017

Cite this

Aghajani, M., Klapwijk, E. T., van der Wee, N. J., Veer, I. M., Rombouts, S. A. R. B., Boon, A. E., ... Colins, O. F. (2017). Disorganized Amygdala Networks in Conduct-Disordered Juvenile Offenders With Callous-Unemotional Traits. Biological Psychiatry, 82(4), 283-293. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.05.017