Amygdala and orbitofrontal reactivity to social threat in individuals with impulsive aggression

Emil F Coccaro, Michael S McCloskey, Daniel A Fitzgerald, K Luan Phan
Biological Psychiatry 2007 July 15, 62 (2): 168-78

BACKGROUND: Converging evidence from animal and human lesion studies implicates the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in emotional regulation and aggressive behavior. However, it remains unknown if functional deficits exist in these specific brain regions in clinical populations in which the cardinal symptom is impulsive aggression. We have previously shown that subjects diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder (IED), a psychiatric disorder characterized by reactive aggressive behavior, perform poorly on facial emotion recognition tasks. In this study we employed a social-emotional probe of amygdala-OFC function in individuals with impulsive aggression.

METHODS: Ten unmedicated subjects with IED and 10 healthy, matched comparison subjects (HC) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while viewing blocks of emotionally salient faces. We compared amygdala and OFC reactivity to faces between IED and HC subjects, and examined the relationship between the extent of activation in these regions and extent of prior history of aggressive behavior.

RESULTS: Relative to controls, individuals with IED exhibited exaggerated amygdala reactivity and diminished OFC activation to faces expressing anger. Extent of amygdala and OFC activation to angry faces were differentially related to prior aggressive behavior across subjects. Unlike controls, aggressive subjects failed to demonstrate amygdala-OFC coupling during responses to angry faces.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide evidence of amygdala-OFC dysfunction in response to an ecologically-valid social threat signal (processing angry faces) in individuals with a history of impulsive aggressive behavior, and further substantiate a link between a dysfunctional cortico-limbic network and aggression.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"