Violent offenders respond to provocations with high amygdala and striatal reactivity

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Sofi da Cunha-Bang
  • Patrick M. Fisher
  • Liv Vadskjær Hjordt
  • Erik Perfalk
  • Anine Persson Skibsted
  • Camilla Bock
  • Anders Ohlhues Baandrup
  • Marie Deen
  • Thomsen, Carsten
  • Dorte M. Sestoft
  • Knudsen, Gitte Moos

The ability to successfully suppress impulses and angry affect is fundamental to control aggressive reactions following provocations. The aim of this study was to examine neural responses to provocations and aggression using a laboratory model of reactive aggression. We used a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging point-subtraction aggression paradigm in 44 men, of whom 18 were incarcerated violent offenders and 26 were control non-offenders. We measured brain activation following provocations (monetary subtractions), while the subjects had the possibility to behave aggressively or pursue monetary rewards. The violent offenders behaved more aggressively than controls (aggression frequency 150 us 84, P = 0.03) and showed significantly higher brain reactivity to provocations within the amygdala and striatum, as well as reduced amygdala-prefrontal and striato-prefrontal connectivity. Amygdala reactivity to provocations was positively correlated with task-related behavior in the violent offenders. Across groups, striatal and prefrontal reactivity to provocations was positively associated with trait anger and trait aggression. These results suggest that violent individuals display abnormally high neural sensitivity to social provocations, a sensitivity related to aggressive behavior. These findings provide novel insight into the neural pathways that are sensitive to provocations, which is critical to more effectively shaped interventions that aim to reduce pathological aggressive behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernsx006
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)802-810
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

    Research areas

  • Aggression, Connectivity, FMRI, Point subtraction aggression paradigm, PSAP, Psychopathy

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