A new study shows that reduced gray matter in the brain could be responsible for behavioral problems in children, but researchers caution that there are still many unknown variables involved in this issue. The researchers determined that youth who have behavioral problems generally have less gray matter in their brain than those of the same age who do not have the behavioral problems. Behavioral problems in children include aggression, antisocial behaviors, severe anger management problems, and poor emotional control. The gray matter in the brain is used for information and signal processing, and less gray matter could mean less processing as a result. University of Birmingham in England researchers discovered that kids and teens who had these types of problems had reduced gray matter when compared to youths who were developing without behavioral issues.
The reduced gray matter associated with behavioral problems in children and teens tended to be displayed in areas of the brain that included the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and the insula. These are areas of the brain associated with making decisions, empathy, reading the emotions and facial expressions of other people, and regulating emotions. According to lead study author Dr. Stephane De Brito “We know that severe behavioral problems in youths are not only predictive of antisocial and aggressive behavior in adulthood, but also substance misuse, mental health problems, and poor physical health. For that reason, behavioral problems are an essential target for prevention efforts and our study advances understanding of the brain regions associated with aggressive and antisocial behavior in youths.”