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Title: An investigation into the role of the orbito-frontal cortex in the presentation of emotional and behavioural problems in children
Author: Potter, Chris
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2000
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Recent studies have indicted that the difficulties in reversal learning and response prevention seen in adult psychopaths (see Patterson and Newman, 1993), can also be seen in some children with severe emotional and behavioural disturbance, referred to as children with psychopathic tendencies (Blair, 1997; Fisher and Blair, 1998). The Orbito-Frontal Cortex (OFC) has been implicated with reversal learning and response prevention (Dias, et al., 1996; Rolls, 1997) and it has been suggested that a dysfunction within the OFC could offer an explanation for the development of psychopathy (Damasio, 1994; Fisher and Blair, 1998). This study investigated whether severe emotional and behavioural disturbance in children is associated with OFC functioning. In particular, it examined whether levels of emotional and behavioural disturbance can predict performance on two computerised reversal learning tasks: The ID-ED Task (Dais, et al. 1996) and The Snake Game (Fine and Blair, in press). The ID-ED Task and The Snake Game are reported to be measures of OFC functioning as they both index sensitivity to changes in reward and punishment reinforcement strategies (Dais, et al. 1996; Fine and Blair, in press). Fifty-six children from two schools for the emotionally and behaviourally disturbed completed both The ID-ED Task and The Snake Game. Their performance was measured by the number of errors they made on each task. The childrens level of emotional and behavioural disturbance was measured using the Psychopathy Screening Device (Frick and Hare, in press). The Psychopathy Screening Device (PSD) indexes a behavioural syndrome that consists of two dimensions: affective disturbance and impulsive/conduct problems. A measure of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was also included because of the high co-morbidity between impulsive/conduct problems and ADHD (see Pennington and Ozonoff, 1996). The DuPaul Rating Scale (DRS: DuPaul 1991) is a quick measure of ADHD symptomology and was completed for each child, in order to distinguish those children with impulsive/conduct problems from those with ADHD. Teaching staff completed two copies of the PSD and the DRS for each child and the average of the two scores were taken. The children s performance on the two computerised reversal learning tasks was analysed in relation to the scores they obtained on the PSD and the DRS. The results indicated that level of emotional and behavioural disturbance did not predict performance on The ID-ED Task nor The Snake Game. There were no significant differences between the performance of the most behaviourally disturbed and the least behaviourally disturbed on either task. The results are interpreted within the proposed models of psychopathy and their relationship to possible neuro-anatomical sites is explored.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available