The processing of animacy information is disrupted as a function of callous-unemotional traits in youth with disruptive behavior disorders

Laura C. Thornton, Elizabeth A. Penner, Zachary T. Nolan, Christopher J. Adalio, Stephen Sinclair, Harma Meffert, Soonjo Hwang, R. James R. Blair, Stuart F. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Atypical amygdala responses to emotional stimuli have been consistently reported in youth with Disruptive Behavior Disorders (DBDs; Conduct Disorder/Oppositional Defiant Disorder). However, responding to animacy stimuli has not been systematically investigated. Yet, the amygdala is known to be responsive to animacy stimuli and impairment in responsiveness to animacy information may have implications for social cognitive development. Twenty-nine youth with DBDs and 20 typically developing youth, matched for IQ, age (Mage = 14.45, SD = 2.05) and gender, completed a dot probe task during fMRI. Stimuli consisted of negative/faces, negative/objects, neutral/faces and neutral/objects images. Youth with DBDs, relative to typically developing youth, showed: i) reduced amygdala and lateral temporal cortex responses to faces relative to objects. Moreover, within the group of youth with DBDs, increasing callous-unemotional traits were associated with lesser amygdala responses to faces relative to objects. These data suggest that youth with DBDs, particularly those with high levels of CU traits exhibit dysfunction in animacy processing in the amygdala. This dysfunction may underpin the asociality reported in these youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-506
Number of pages9
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • Adolescent
  • Amygdala
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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