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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Do Brain Abnormalities Cause Antisocial Behavior in Boys?

"Brain responses to everyday rewards and punishments gradually guide most youngsters' decisions to conform with society's rules. However, when these seriously troubled kids experience rewards and punishments, and make decisions, their brains apparently malfunction," said Thomas Crowley, lead author on the study.

All particpants played a computerized risk-taking game that repeatedly presented a choice between a cautious and a risky behavior. The scientists examined brain activation with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as the boys decided to press right or left, and then as they experienced wins or losses after presses.

During decision-making, antisocial boys had significantly less brain activity than normals in particular decision-making areas.

As predicted by others not associated with the study, the antisocial boys also had dysphoria, a chronic sad-anxious state, with "reward insensitivity"; in the game their brains responded less than the comparison boys' brains to wins. They also had "punishment hypersensitivity," with greater brain response to losses than comparison boys.

Interestingly, the number of 'risky' decisions was similar in the two groups. The scientists speculate that this occurred because the game forced the boys to deliberate for several seconds before pressing either button.





It is interesting how they found different brain activity when comparing control to the antisocial boys, this does seem to indicate a fundimental difference between the two groups. But in terms of decision making, both groups made similar decisions.

Does this really suggest a genetic difference for decision making?

Link to Article

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