Tit-for-tat: The neural basis of reactive aggression

Department of Neuropsychology, Otto-von-Guericke University, Universitätsplatz 2, 39106, Magdeburg, Germany.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 11/2007; 38(1):203-11. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.07.029
Source: PubMed


Aggressive behavior is a basic form of human social interaction, yet little is known about its neural substrates. We used a laboratory task to investigate the neural correlates of reactive aggression using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The task is disguised as a reaction-time competition between the subject and two opponents and entitles the winner to punish the loser. It seeks to elicit aggression by provocation of the subject. As each single trial in this task is separated into a decision phase, during which the severity of the prospective punishment of the opponent is set, and an outcome phase, during which the actual punishment is applied or received, the paradigm enables us to analyze the neural events during each of these phases. Specific neural responses in areas related to negative affect, cognitive control and reward processing provide additional information about the cognitive, emotional and motivational processes underlying reactive aggressive behavior and afford us with the possibility to test and expand theories on aggression such as the General Aggression Model.

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Available from: Ulrike Krämer, Oct 04, 2015
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    • "In other words, aggression was highest at high levels instigation (social rejection), low levels of inhibition (sugar substitute beverage), and high levels of impellance (high rejection sensitivity). Aggression is a rewarding behavior that activates pleasure centers of the brain, such as the striatum and the nucleus accumbens (Chester & DeWall, 2014; Kr€ amer et al., 2007). Glucose produces a similar effect, with one crucial exception: in addition to stimulating reward centers, glucose increases neural activation in brain regions that aid self-regulation (Chambers et al., 2009), which is likely the underlying mechanism to our findings. "
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    ABSTRACT: Social rejection can increase aggression, especially among people high in rejection sensitivity. Rejection impairs self-control, and deficits in self-control often result in aggression. A dose of glucose can counteract the effect of situational factors that undermine self-control. But no research has integrated these literatures to understand why rejection increases aggression, and how to reduce it. Using the I(3) model of aggression, we proposed that aggression would be highest under conditions of high instigation (rejection), high impellance (high rejection sensitivity), and low inhibition (drinking a beverage sweetened with a sugar substitute instead of glucose). As predicted, aggression was highest among participants who experienced social rejection, were high in rejection sensitivity, and drank a placebo beverage. A dose of glucose reduced aggression, especially among rejected people high in rejection sensitivity. These findings point to the importance of self-control in understanding why social rejection increases aggression, and how to prevent it. Aggr. Behav. 9999:1-7, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Aggressive Behavior 07/2015; DOI:10.1002/ab.21593 · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    • "In humans, punishing someone for a transgression can evoke a feeling of reward. The latter instance is demonstrated in the Taylor Aggression paradigm, where reactive elements of aggression are operationalized in terms of punishment with provocation, reactive aggression activates reward-related subcortical areas such as the ventral striatum (De Quervain et al., 2004; Krämer et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Aggressive behavior is thought to divide into two motivational elements: The first being a self-defensively motivated aggression against threat and a second, hedonically motivated "appetitive" aggression. Appetitive aggression is the less understood of the two, often only researched within abnormal psychology. Our approach is to understand it as a universal and adaptive response, and examine the functional neural activity of ordinary men (N = 50) presented with an imaginative listening task involving a murderer describing a kill. We manipulated motivational context in a between-subjects design to evoke appetitive or reactive aggression, against a neutral control, measuring activity with Magnetoencephalography (MEG). Results show differences in left frontal regions in delta (2-5 Hz) and alpha band (8-12 Hz) for aggressive conditions and right parietal delta activity differentiating appetitive and reactive aggression. These results validate the distinction of reward-driven appetitive aggression from reactive aggression in ordinary populations at the level of functional neural brain circuitry.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 12/2014; 8:425. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00425 · 3.27 Impact Factor
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    • "Especially voluntary inhibition, so to speak the 'free won't' as opposed to the free will (Brass and Haggard, 2007), has been the function attributed to AIC activation. As mentioned previously, AIC involvement in the context of social interaction paradigms related to retaliation and the punishment of unfairness has mostly been interpreted as reflecting the processing of negative emotions (Sanfey et al., 2003; de Quervain et al., 2004; Krämer et al., 2007; White et al., 2013). These interpretations are highly reasonable , although seemingly conflicting with results that reveal AIC to be equally involved in unsuccessful inhibition (Menon et al., 2001) and the processing of positive emotions (Hennenlotter et al., 2005; Jabbi et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Inhibiting impulsive reactions while still defending one's vital resources is paramount to functional self-control and successful development in a social environment. However, this ability of successfully inhibiting, and thus controlling one's impulsivity, often fails, leading to consequences ranging from motor impulsivity to aggressive reactions following provocation. Although inhibitory failure represents the underlying mechanism, the neurocognition of social aggression and motor response inhibition have traditionally been investigated in separation. Here, we aimed to directly investigate and compare the neural mechanisms underlying the failure of inhibition across those different modalities of self-control. We employed functional imaging to reveal the overlap in neural correlates between failed motor response inhibition (measured by a go/no-go task) and reactive aggression (measured by the Taylor aggression paradigm) in healthy males. The core overlap of neural correlates was located in anterior insula, suggesting common anterior insula involvement in motor impulsivity as well as reactive aggression. This evidence regarding an overarching role of anterior insula across different modalities of self-control enables an integrative perspective on insula function and a better integration of cognitive, social, and emotional factors into a comprehensive model of impulsivity. Furthermore, it can eventually lead to a better understanding of clinical syndromes involving inhibitory deficits.
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 05/2014; 10(4). DOI:10.1093/scan/nsu077 · 7.37 Impact Factor
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