Callous-unemotional traits and brain structure: Sex-specific effects in anterior insula of typically-developing youths

  • Callous-unemotional traits are characterized by a lack of empathy, a disregard for others' feelings and shallow or deficient affect, such as a lack of remorse or guilt. Neuroanatomical correlates of callous-unemotional traits have been demonstrated in clinical samples (i.e., adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders). However, it is unknown whether callous-unemotional traits are associated with neuroanatomical correlates within normative populations without clinical levels of aggression or antisocial behavior. Here we investigated the relationship between callous-unemotional traits and gray matter volume using voxel-based morphometry in a large sample of typically-developing boys and girls (N = 189). Whole-brain multiple regression analyses controlling for site, total intracranial volume, and age were conducted in the whole sample and in boys and girls individually. Results revealed that sex and callous-unemotional traits interacted to predict gray matter volume when considering the whole sample. This interaction was driven by a significant positive correlation between callous-unemotional traits and bilateral anterior insula volume in boys, but not girls. Insula gray matter volume explained 19% of the variance in callous-unemotional traits for boys. Our results demonstrate that callous-unemotional traits are related to variations in brain structure beyond psychiatric samples. This association was observed for boys only, underlining the importance of considering sex as a factor in future research designs. Future longitudinal studies should determine whether these findings hold over childhood and adolescence, and whether the neuroanatomical correlates of callous-unemotional traits are predictive of future psychiatric vulnerability.
Author:Nora Maria Raschle, Willeke Martine Menks, Lynn Valérie Fehlbaum, Martin Steppan, Areti Smaragdi, Karen Gonzalez-Madruga, Jack C. Rogers, Roberta Clanton, Gregor KohlsORCiDGND, Anne Martinelli, Anka Bernhard, Kerstin KonradORCiDGND, Beate Herpertz-DahlmannORCiDGND, Christine M. FreitagORCiDGND, Graeme Fairchild, Stéphane A. De Brito, Christina StadlerORCiDGND
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):NeuroImage: Clinical
Place of publication:[Amsterdam u. a.]
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2017
Date of first Publication:2017/12/09
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2020/07/22
Tag:Callous-unemotional traits; Insula; Pediatric neuroimaging; Sex differences; Voxel-based morphometry
Page Number:9
First Page:856
Last Page:864
Under a Creative Commons license
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitung 4.0