Brain structure could explain antisocial behaviour - study

The Dunedin Study examined more than 600 MRI scans.
The Dunedin Study examined more than 600 MRI scans. Photo credit: Getty

People's antisocial behaviour could be linked to the structure of their brain, according to a new study out of Dunedin.

Researchers say people who partake in antisocial actions have structural differences in their brains.

That's because on average they had a smaller-than-average surface area and lower-than-average "cortical thickness" than those who showed no antisocial conduct.

The Dunedin Study looked at the MRI brain scans of 672 people aged 45 years old and it appears the findings support the need to approach antisocial behaviour differently.

"Here the examination of the Dunedin Study cohort has allowed a person's behaviour to be observed over their lifespan," said Dr Gina Forster, of the University of Otago's department of anatomy.

"It is not clear what causes changes in brain structure and whether these in turn, directly result in antisocial behaviour.

"However, technologies are improving to such allow individual-level based brain analysis so that the information gained by the current study could be readily applied in the future."

Study co-author Terrie Moffitt, from Duke University in the US, said the findings support the need for different approaches to different offenders.

The findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.