Longitudinal Study on Emotions, Aggression, and Physiology

Investigators: Tina Malti, Ph.D., Brendan F. Andrade, Ph.D., David Haley, Ph.D., Roxana Sultan, M.H.Sc., Katina Watson, M.A.

Introduction: The goal of this project is to determine the links between children's physiological and reported experience of emotions in moral conflict and persistent disruptive behaviour, in order to uncover opportunities for intervention.

Objectives: The proposed research will investigate the role of guilt, empathy, pride, and rage in children's development of antisocial behaviour. We hypothesize that these emotions may have divergent effects, with high levels of guilt and empathy preventing antisocial behaviour, while exaggerated levels of pride and rage increasing antisocial behaviour. This research will examine if children with elevated levels of antisocial behaviour differ in their emotional and physiological responses to conflicts about rules and obligations, compared to normally developed children.

Health and Clinical Relevance: Given the recognition that these emotions play an influential role in how children resolve conflicts with peers, the proposed research will provide timely knowledge on the role of emotional development processes in antisocial behaviour. This knowledge is likely to contribute to the development of new, early intervention strategies (e.g., targeting emotions and awareness of physiological arousal) for reducing antisocial behaviour in children.

Project Stage: Recruitment and Implementation.

Funding Source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)


Relationship between Reward-dominance and Inhibitory Control in Children with Conduct Problems and Callous-unemotional Traits

Investigators: Mariella Giuliano, M.A. & Brendan F. Andrade, Ph.D.

Introduction: Emerging research shows that a subgroup of children with disruptive behaviour with callous-unemotional traits (CU traits) show different degree of sensitivity to negative consequences and rewards compared to control children. However it is unclear how sensitivity to negative consequences and rewards are influenced by children's executive functioning, specifically their ability to inhibit a behavioral response (i.e., inhibitory control).                                                                                                                 

Objectives: This study will determine how inhibitory control is associated with children's sensitivity to reward and negative consequences in children with disruptive behaviour who vary in the severity of CU traits.

Health and Clinical Relevance: Findings will provide important insight into additional child-level neurocognitive factors that contribute to behavioural severity among children with disruptive behaviour and CU traits.

Project Stage: Participant Recruitment.



Identification of Novel Biological and Psychosocial Markers of Treatment Response in Children with Disruptive Behaviour

Investigators: Brendan F. Andrade, Ph.D., Stephanie Ameis, M.D., MSc., Nathan Kolla, M.D., Ph.D., Meng-Chuan Lai, M.D., Ph.D. 

Introduction: Recent neuroimaging studies, including a study by our group (sample ~300 children), have linked alterations within fronto-amygdalar brain circuitry to predict vulnerability to externalizing behaviour expression. Preliminary results indicate that behavioural intervention may improve symptoms through amelioration of this circuitry.

Objectives: This project aims to determine how changes in brain function are associated with treatment outcomes in children with disruptive behaviour. To accomplish these objectives, we collect participant emotional, cognitive and brain-based imaging measures before and following cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) intervention. Statistical modeling techniques will be employed to identify biomarkers of treatment outcomes in children with disruptive behaviours. We use advanced longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging measures ('pre'- 'post'-CBT) to track  fronto-amygdalar grey and white matter structure. Task-based and resting state functional connectivity are measured using functional MRI.

Health and Clinical Relevance:  This project will identify brain-based mechanisms of treatment benefit in children with disruptive behavior disorders.

Project Stage: Participant Recruitment

Funding Source: John and Polly Sparks Grant – American Psychological Foundation


 Children’s Aggression Multidisciplinary Program

Investigators: Brendan F. Andrade, Ph.D., Dr. Joseph Beitchman, MD.

Introduction: The main goal of this study is to identify genes that increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior in children.

Objectives: Our overall objective is to better understand which psychosocial intervention and medications will work for which children. Specifically: 1) To determine the genetic and environmental factors that are associated with increased likelihood of aggressive behavior in children; 2) To develop improved psychosocial interventions and medications that will target the aggressive behavior in children; and 3) Improve quality of life of children with aggression difficulties.

Health and Clinical Relevance:  To date, research has shown that aggressive behavior may have genetic link and certain genes have been found to increase the susceptibility of aggression in children. If genes can be found with a link to aggressive behavior in children, then treatment could be provided to the child based on their specific genetic and environmental factors. Catering the treatment towards the child's specific needs will improve their quality of life both at home and at school.

Project Stage: Recruitment and Implementation.

Funding Source: