Background: Parenting interventions reduce antisocial behavior (ASB) in some children with conduct problems (CPs), but not others. Understanding the neural basis for this disparity is important because persistent ASB is associated with lifelong morbidity and places a huge burden on our health and criminal justice systems. One of the most highly replicated neural correlates of ASB is amygdala hypoactivity to another person's fear. We aimed to assess whether amygdala hypoactivity to fear in children with CPs is remediated following reduction in ASB after successful treatment and/or if it is a marker for persistent ASB. Methods: We conducted a prospective, case-control study of boys with CPs and typically developing (TD) boys. Both groups (ages 5–10 years) completed 2 magnetic resonance imaging sessions (18 ± 5.8 weeks apart) with ASB assessed at each visit. Participants included boys with CPs following referral to a parenting intervention group and TD boys recruited from the same schools and geographical regions. Final functional magnetic resonance imaging data were available for 36 TD boys and 57 boys with CPs. Boys with CPs were divided into those whose ASB improved (n = 27) or persisted (n = 30) following the intervention. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data assessing fear reactivity were then analyzed using a longitudinal group (TD/improving CPs/persistent CPs) × time point (pre/post) design. Results: Amygdala hypoactivity to fear was observed only in boys with CPs who had persistent ASB and was absent in those whose ASB improved following intervention. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that amygdala hypoactivity to fear is a marker for ASB that is resistant to change following a parenting intervention and a putative target for future treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Amygdala
  • Antisocial behavior (ASB)
  • Conduct problems
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Hypoactivity
  • Parent training


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