Trajectories of adolescent conduct problems in relation to cortical thickness development: a longitudinal MRI study Academic Article uri icon


  • Multiple cross-sectional imaging studies have identified structural abnormalities in prefrontal, temporal and limbic regions related to conduct problems (CPs). However, the relationship between development of such neurobiological deficits and developmental pathways of CPs has remained unclear. The current study investigated distinct trajectories of CP and related trajectories of cortical thickness within a community-based sample of adolescents (n=239), age range 12-19, to address this gap. Three trajectory classes were revealed using latent class growth analyses (LCGAs), comprising a 'desisting' CP group, an 'intermediate' CP group and a 'stable low' CP group. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were collected with a subgroup of 171 adolescents at three waves throughout adolescence (ages 12, 16 and 19). Generalized estimating equation (GEE) analysis-comparing longitudinal changes in cortical thickness and subcortical volume between CP groups for several regions of interest (ROIs)-showed that these CP groups had differential trajectories of cortical thickness in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dl-PFC), and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and volume of the hippocampus. Adolescents in the desisting CP group showed an attenuation of the typical pattern of cortical thinning as present in the intermediate and stable low CP groups, in addition to an exaggeration of the typical pattern of hippocampal volume increase. These findings suggest that a deviant cortical thickness trajectory was related to a desisting CP pathway across adolescence. Such deviant neurodevelopmental growth trajectories may act as an underlying mechanism for developmental CP pathways, and possibly distinguish desisting antisocial adolescents.


  • Oostermeijer, Sanne
  • Whittle, S
  • Suo, C
  • Allen, NB
  • Simmons, JG
  • Vijayakumar, N
  • van de Ven, PM
  • Jansen, LMC
  • Yucel, M
  • Popma, A

publication date

  • 2016