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University of Basel

27 December 2017

Callous and Unemotional Traits Show in Brain Structure of Boys Only

Boy sitting on stairs

Callous-unemotional traits are linked to differences in brain structure in boys, but not girls. This reports a European research team led by the University of Basel and University of Basel Psychiatric Hospital in a study on brain development in 189 adolescents. The journal Neuroimage: Clinical has published the results.

Callous-unemotional traits have been linked to deficits in development of the conscience and of empathy. Children and adolescents react less to negative stimuli; they often prefer risky activities and show less caution or fear. In recent years, researchers and doctors have given these personality traits increased attention, since they have been associated with the development of more serious and persistent antisocial behavior.  

However, until now, most research in this area has focused on studying callous-unemotional traits in populations with a psychiatric diagnosis, especially conduct disorder. This meant that it was unclear whether associations between callous-unemotional traits and brain structure were only present in clinical populations with increased aggression, or whether the antisocial behavior and aggression explained the brain differences. 

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