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Amygdala reactivity to fearful faces correlates positively with impulsive aggression

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Facial expressions robustly activate the amygdala, a brain structure playing a critical role in aggression. Whereas previous studies suggest that amygdala reactivity is related to various measures of impulsive aggression, we here estimate a composite measure of impulsive aggression and evaluate whether it is associated with amygdala reactivity to angry and fearful faces. We estimated amygdala reactivity with functional magnetic resonance imaging in 47 men with varying degree of aggressive traits (19 incarcerated violent offenders and 28 healthy controls). We modeled a composite "impulsive aggression" trait construct (LVagg) using a linear structural equation model, with a single latent variable capturing the shared correlation between five self-report measures of trait aggression, anger and impulsivity. We tested for associations between amygdala reactivity and the LVagg, adjusting for age and group. The LVaggwas significantly positively associated with amygdala reactivity to fearful (p = 0.001), but not angry faces (p = 0.9). We found no group difference in amygdala reactivity to fearful or angry faces. The findings suggest that that amygdala reactivity to fearful faces is represented by a composite index of impulsive aggression and provide evidence that impulsive aggression is associated with amygdala reactivity in response to submissive cues, i.e., fearful faces.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Volume14
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)162-172
Number of pages11
ISSN1747-0919
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019

    Research areas

  • Journal Article

ID: 52761088