Lifelong Antisocial Behaviour Linked To Brain Structure

People who engage in persistent antisocial behaviour long after adolescence have characteristic differences in brain structure, finds a new UCL-led study.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, identified brain differences between people who engage in antisocial behaviour – such as theft, aggression, violence, bullying, lying, or repeated failure to take care of work or school responsibilities – only during adolescence and those who persist throughout adulthood.

Our findings support the idea that, for the small proportion of individuals with life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour, there may be differences in their brain structure that make it difficult for them to develop social skills that prevent them from engaging in antisocial behaviour. These people could benefit from more support throughout their lives,” said lead author Dr Christina Carlisi (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).

Most people who exhibit antisocial behaviour primarily do so only in adolescence, likely as a result of navigating socially difficult years, and these individuals do not display structural brain differences. It is also these individuals who are generally capable of reform and go on to become valuable members of society.”

Previous studies have found that antisocial behaviour is most prevalent in adolescence, before people mature into adulthood, while a smaller number of people will continue with antisocial behaviour over multiple decades.


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