Studies report that the microstructural integrity of the uncinate fasciculus (UF; connecting the anterior temporal lobe to the orbitofrontal cortex) is abnormal in adults with psychopathy and children with conduct problems (CP), especially those with high callous-unemotional (CU) traits. However, it is unknown if these abnormalities are ‘fixed’ or ‘reversible’. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that a reduction in CP symptoms, following a parenting intervention, would be associated with altered microstructural integrity in the UF. Using diffusion tensor imaging tractography we studied microstructural differences (mean diffusivity (MD) and radial diffusivity (RD)) in the UF of 43 typically developing (TD) and 67 boys with CP before and after a 14-week parenting intervention. We also assessed whether clinical response in CP symptoms or CU traits explained changes in microstructure following the intervention. Prior to intervention, measures of MD and RD in the UF were increased in CP compared to TD boys. Following intervention, we found that the CP group had a significant reduction in RD and MD. Further, these microstructural changes were driven by the group of children whose CU traits improved (but not CP symptoms as hypothesized). No significant microstructural changes were observed in the TD group. Our findings suggest, for the first time, that microstructural abnormalities in the brains of children with CP may be reversible following parenting intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number339
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2023


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