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Brain networks implicated in child aggressiveness are discovered through machine learning model

Nov, 2021

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The new research method for analyzing neural impulses throughout the brain is associated with aggressive behavior in children.

Oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD in children can cause outbursts of anger and physical hostility. A deeper understanding of what causes these problems could aid in the development of treatment techniques. Yale University researchers have now utilized a machine learning-based technique to identify anomalies in brain connections in aggressive children. The researchers obtained functional magnetic resonance imaging results as children did an emotional face recognition task in which they viewed faces producing calm or scared expressions for the study, which is the first of its type.

According to the researchers, observing faces that convey emotion can activate brain states related to emotion creation and control, both of which have been associated with aggressive behavior. The researchers next used machine learning methods to uncover brain connections that differentiated between children with or without a record of violent conduct. Variations in brain networks engaged in emotional and social processes, such as feeling dissatisfied with homework or recognizing why a friend is sad, were found to predict violent conduct. The researchers next repeated their findings in a second dataset and discovered that the same brain networks indicated aggressiveness.

When examined in subgroups of children with aggressiveness and disorders such as autism, anxiety, and ADHD, abnormal connectivity to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—a key region implicated in the control of emotions and higher cognitive functions such as awareness and decision-making—emerged as a consistent determinant of aggressive behavior. These neuronal connections to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex could be a sign of aggression, which is common in a variety of pediatric psychiatric problems.

According to the findings of this study, the robustness of these large-scale brain networks and their interaction with the prefrontal cortex might provide a neural marker of aggression that can be used in clinical trials. The human functional connectome illustrates the brain's enormous interconnection. Studying the connectome is at the forefront of neuroscience as it can provide useful information for establishing brain biomarkers for psychiatric diseases. This connectome model of aggression may also aid in the development of clinical practices to enhance coordination among brain networks and hubs such as the prefrontal cortex.

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