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Cultivating conscience: Moral neurohabilitation of adolescents and young adults with conduct and/or antisocial personality disorders.


Individuals diagnosed with conduct disorder (CD) in childhood and adolescence are at risk for increasingly maladaptive and dangerous behaviors, which unchecked, can lead to antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) in adulthood. Children with CD, especially those with the callous unemotional subgroup qualifier ("limited prosocial emotions"/DSM-5), present with a more severe pattern of delinquency, aggression, and antisocial behavior, all markings of prodrome ASPD. Given this recognized diagnostic trajectory, with a pathological course playing out tragically at the individual, familial, and societal level, and lack of effective remediation via current standards of care, we posit an alternate treatment approach; case-specific compulsory moral habilitation aimed at rectifying the undeveloped affective domain of adolescents and young adults suffering from these disorders. We begin with a brief historical overview of response to mental illness, review CD and ASPD diagnostic criteria and treatment limitations, and posit a unique neurohabilitative approach that focuses on the absent affective moral development of these populations. Next, we invoke a public health safety argument to justify case-specific compulsory moral habilitation, discuss neurotechnologies to be considered in treatment, and conclude with ethical considerations and suggestions for further research.

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