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Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a complex and global phenomenon that requires a multi-perspective analysis. Nevertheless, the number of neuroscientific studies conducted on this issue is scarce as compared with studies of other types of violence, and no neuroimaging studies comparing batterers to other criminals have been conducted. Thus, the main aim of this study was to compare the brain functioning of batterers to that of other criminals when they are exposed to IPV or general violence pictures. An fMRI study was conducted in 21 batterers and 20 other criminals while they observed intimate partner violence images (IPVI), general violence images (GVI) and neutral images (NI). Results demonstrated that batterers, compared to other criminals, exhibited a higher activation in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortex and in the middle prefrontal cortex and a decreased activation in the superior prefrontal cortex to IPVI compared to NI. The paired t-test comparison between IPVI and GVI for each group showed engagement of the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate and the left angular cortices to IPVI in the batterer group only. These results could have important implications for a better understanding of the IPV phenomenon.
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Are batterers different from other criminals? An fMRI study
Natalia Bueso- Izquierdo
1, 2
, Juan Verdejo-Román
1,2
, Oren Contreras-Rodríguez
4,5
, Martina
Carmona-Perera
1,2
,Miguel Pérez-García
1,2,3
, Natalia Hidalgo-Ruzzante
2,6
1.
School of Psychology, University of Granada (UGR), Spain.
2.
The Brain, Mind and Behavior Research Center at University of Granada
(CIMCYC-UGR), Spain.
3.
Centro de Investigaciones Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM),
UGR. Spain.
4.
Institute of Neuroscience Federico Olóriz, University of Granada, Spain.
5.
Psychiatry Department, Bellvitge University Hospital, Bellvitge Biomedical
Research Institute-IDIBELL, CIBERSAM, Barcelona, Spain.
6.
School of Education, University of Granada (UGR), Spain.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to:
Natalia Bueso-Izquierdo
nbueso@ugr.es
School of Psychology, University of Granada
0034 (958 24 29 48)
Campus Cartuja S/N, 18071, Granada, Spain.
Numbers of words in the text: 6.615
© The Author (2016). Published by Oxford University Press. For Permissions, please email:
journals.permissions@oup.com
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access published February 16, 2016
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Abstract
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a complex and global phenomenon that requires a
multi-perspective analysis. Nevertheless, the number of neuroscientific studies
conducted on this issue is scarce as compared with studies of other types of violence,
and no neuroimaging studies comparing batterers to other criminals have been
conducted. Thus, the main aim of this study was to compare the brain functioning of
batterers to that of other criminals when they are exposed to IPV or general violence
pictures. An fMRI study was conducted in 21 batterers and 20 other criminals while
they observed intimate partner violence images (IPVI), general violence images (GVI)
and neutral images (NI). Results demonstrated that batterers, compared to other
criminals, exhibited a higher activation in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortex and
in the middle prefrontal cortex and a decreased activation in the superior prefrontal
cortex to IPVI compared to NI.
The paired t-test comparison between IPVI and GVI for
each group showed engagement of the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate
and the left angular cortices to IPVI in the batterer group only
.
These results could have
important implications for a better understanding of the IPV phenomenon.
Keywords: Intimate Partner Violence, neuroimaging, batterers
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Introduction
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a complex and global phenomenon that
requires a multi-perspective analysis. According to the World Health Organization
(WHO), IPV refers to any violent behavior within an intimate relationship. It includes
physical aggression (e.g. slapping, hitting, kicking, or beating), sexual force,
psychological abuse (e.g. intimidation, constant belittling or humiliation), or any other
controlling behavior by a current or former partner or spouse (Krug et al., 2002). Many
studies have pointed out that IPV is related to several factors including psychosocial,
family, patriarchal or biological variables (Pinto et al., 2010; Corvo and Johnson, 2013)
but the number of neuroscientific studies conducted on this issue are scarce as compared
to the number of studies on other types of violence (Corvo, 2014).
A great number of neuroimaging studies on general violence have focused on the
brain functioning of violent people. Furthermore, these results have been replicated in
structural and functional studies using different techniques such as CT, PET, SPECT,
MRI and ERP scans (Patrick, 2008; Schiltz et al., 2013). The prefrontal cortex, temporal
cortex, insula, amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus have been key structures
related to aggressive behavior (Blair & Lee, 2013; Blair, 2001; Siever, 2008).
Nevertheless, brain structures are different according to the type of aggression. In
reactive/impulsive aggression or aggression in response to a threating stimulus,
activation in the amygdala, hypothalamus and periaqueductal gray (PAG) (Mobbs et al.,
2007; 2010) has been consistently found. The same structures have been found to be
involved in cases of frustration (Blair, 2012). In instrumental/ goal directed aggression,
the motor cortex and cerebellum are involved (White, Meffert, & Blair, 2015). In the
last type of aggression, the amygdala and ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (vmPFC) have
been related to moral decisions about harming another person (Blair, 2007; Harenski,
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Harenski, Shane, & Kiehl, 2010). In the case of offenders with psychiatric conditions,
other brain areas have been found to be involved. In a study conducted on antisocial
offenders, differentiated according to borderline personality disorder (BPD) or high
psychopathic traits (HPT), Bertsch et al. (2013) found that antisocial offenders with
BPD showed gray matter reduction in the orbitofrontal and ventromedial prefrontal
cortices (involved in emotion regulation and reactive aggression) and in the temporal
pole (involved in cognitive empathy). On the other hand, antisocial offenders with HPT
showed gray matter reduction in cortical midline structures (CMS), such as the
dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), the postcentral gyrus, posterior cingulate cortex
(PCC), and dorsal anterior and posterior precuneus, which are principally involved in
the default mode network (DMN).
To our knowledge few studies have assessed the brain function of abusers
(George et al., 2004; Lee et al., 2009). George et al. (2004) used positron emission
tomography (PET) to analyze glucose metabolism activity in the structures responsible
for monitoring and mediating conditioned responses to fear associated with domestic
violence. Findings show that perpetrators with alcohol abuse, compared to non-
perpetrators with alcohol abuse and control participants, had lower glucose uptake in the
hypothalamus. Interestingly, using an fMRI picture-viewing paradigm, Lee and
colleagues (2009) demonstrated that batterers had an over-activation in the
hippocampus, the fusiform gyrus, the posterior cingulate cortex, the thalamus and the
occipital cortex in response to threatening stimuli compared to neutral stimuli. On the
other hand, specific higher activation was observed in batterers in the precuneus when
they saw female aggression pictures versus neutral pictures.
However, no direct neuroimaging studies comparing batterers with other
criminals have been conducted, and few studies have compared both populations while
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considering other psychological variables. For example, Moffitt and colleagues (2000)
demonstrated that partner abuse and general crime represent different constructs that are
moderately related but “not conceptually equivalent, even when performed by the same
individual”, depending on his/her personality traits. General crime was related to high
emotional negativity and low constraint, and IPV was also related to emotional
negativity but not to low constraint. Boyle, O’Leary, Rosenbaum and Hassett-Walker
(2008) found that general violent offenders showed more conduct disorder/delinquent
behaviors, lifetime antisocial behaviors, and disinhibition, and were more
psychologically abusive than other violent participants. In this sense, comparing
batterers’ brain functioning to that of other criminals could help in understanding the
mechanism of IPV and its possible similarities with general violence.
For these reasons, the main aim of this study is to compare the brain functioning
of batterers with other criminals when they observe IPV or general violence pictures to
make progress from findings in previous studies (Lee et al., 2009). We also aimed to
assess whether batterers have differences in brain functioning specific to IPV pictures
that are not present to GV images. We hypothesized that batterers, relative to other
criminals, will show a specific higher activation of the precuneus/posterior cingulate
cortex (PCC) during the viewing of IPV pictures compared to neutral and general
violence pictures. This hypothesis is in line with the over-activation of these regions in
the only fMRI study that has assessed brain activation in response to IPV pictures in
batterers relative to controls (Lee et al., 2009). We also hypothesized that batterers will
show higher activation of the occipital, posterior parietal, and temporal cortices during
the viewing of general violence images compared to neutral images. This hypothesis is
also congruent with the study completed by Lee and colleagues (2009) showing over-
activation of these brain regions in response to threatening vs. neutral stimuli.
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Materials and Methods
Participants
Forty-one men convicted of crimes were recruited from the Center for Social Insertion
(CSI) (Centro de Inserción Social, CIS) “Matilde Cantos Fernández”, in Granada
(Spain). They were divided into two groups: 1) Twenty-one batterers (batterers group,
BG) convicted for a crime of violence against women, and 2) twenty men convicted of
crimes other than IPV (other criminal group, OCG).
In Spain, IPV crimes are regulated by a specific law (Law 1/2004, “Comprehensive
Protection Law against Gender Violence). This law states that a man may be convicted
by a judge for several types of aggression including insults, threats, slaps or beatings,
sexual abuse or murder. According to this law, first convictions for IPV without sexual
or physical abuse are classified as a misdemeanor, which implies that the person is sent
to an open facility (CSI) of the Ministry of Justice, but not to prison. In the CSI,
batterers should attend IPV rehabilitation programs. In case of sexual or physical abuse
with any physical injury, batterers go to prison.
Crime severity in Spaniard law are regulated by a Penal Code (article 33). According to
this article, crimes sentences between 3 months and 5 years are classified as “less
serious.” Given that all participants were recruited in the CSI, we guaranteed that 1) it
was the first time that participants of both groups were convicted; and 2) they were
convicted for the similar sanction (“less serious”).
Table 1 shows the socio-demographic and severity of crime information. Groups
did not differ significantly in age, education level, and intelligence quotient (IQ). All
were right-handed males with native fluency in Spanish. The selection of participants
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included the following inclusion criteria: individuals 18 years old or older; for the BG,
being convicted of an IPV crime, for the OCG being convicted of a crime other than
IPV. The exclusion criteria for the two groups included: illiteracy, a history of serious
antecedents of psychological and personality problems (measured through the Millon
Multiaxial Personality Test III; Millon, 1994, Spaniard adaptation Cardenal y Sánchez,
2007), head injury, neurological illness, infectious disease, history of drug abuse or
dependence (including alcohol) (SCID/DSM-IV); American Psychiatric Association,
1994), systemic disease or any other diseases affecting the central nervous system, and
the presence of significant abnormalities in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or any
contraindications to MRI scanning (including claustrophobia or implanted
ferromagnetic objects). Individuals in the OCG with a score greater than or equal to 11
on the severity scale of the CTS2 (Conflict Tactic Scales) (Straus, Hamby, Boney-
McCoy & Sugarman, 1996) were excluded. This criterion was established in a previous
study (Cohen et al., 2003) to rule out physical or psychological violence against
partners.
The study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the University of
Granada, Spain. The participants were invited to collaborate in the study on a voluntary
and anonymous basis. The confidentiality of personal information was guaranteed in
accordance with the Spanish legislation on personal data protection (Organic Law
15/1999, December 13). All of the participants signed a written informed consent
document and they received 25 euros for participating in the study.
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Materials
An interview evaluating socio-demographic information and the risk of serious couple
violence was used (Echeburúa et al., 2008). This questionnaire measures the socio-
demographic variables of the aggressor and victim, the relationship status of the couple
(couple not living together, cohabitation, in the process of separating, separated, etc.),
the types of violence, the profile of the aggressor (information about the formal
complaint and emotions of the batterer in that moment), and vulnerability factors for the
victim (i.e. substance use, economic dependence and lack of social support).
IPV Severity. The CTS 2 Spanish version (Loinaz et al., 2012) of the original
CTS2 (Conflict Tactic Scales; Straus et al., 1996) was used to detect the existence of
physical, psychological, and/ or sexual violence towards a partner in a relationship. It
measures violence frequency and intensity in the relationship.
Intelligence Quotient. The K-BIT (Brief Intelligence Test) (Kaufman et al.,
1997): The K-BIT measures cognitive functions through two tests: verbal (vocabulary,
comprised of two tests), and non-verbal (matrix), which evaluates crystallized and fluid
intelligence, and obtains a compound IQ.
fMRI task. The stimulus set comprised 72 pictures extracted from the
International Affective Picture System (IAPS) database, divided equally into four
categories: pleasant, unpleasant, general violence, and neutral. We also selected 18
pictures of intimate partner violence from Internet. For present study proposes, we focus
on general and intimate partner violence images, using neutral images as the control
condition. General violence (GV) images included violent acts against humans and
animals, such as fights, threats and injuries that lack women. Intimate partner violence
(IPV) images, in turn, involved a female victim being attacked by a man, or injured
women. Neutral (N) images included general objects that were not related to violence,
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such as chairs, baskets and spoons. Each picture was presented in blocks of 15 seconds,
with an individual picture duration of 5 seconds (secs). Picture blocks were presented
pseudo-randomly. The task was performed with the Presentation software
(Neurobehavioral System Inc., San Francisco, CA). The items were presented through
magnetic resonance-compatible liquid crystal display goggles (Resonance Technology,
Northridge, CA, U.S.A.) equipped with various corrective lenses.
Participants were instructed to sustain the emotion elicited by the pictures
displayed during IPV, GV and N images. After the functional imaging session,
participant involvement was confirmed by asking the participants to rate images on
three emotional components using the Self-Assessment Manikins (SAM) scales, with
valence: from happy (9) to unhappy (1), arousal: from excited (9) to calm (1), and
dominance: from controlled (1) to in control (9).
Imaging data acquisition and preprocessing. The equipment used was a 3.0
Tesla clinical MRI scanner with an eight-channel phased-array head coil (Intera
Achieva, Philips Medical Systems, Eindhoven, The Netherlands). During acquisition, a
T2*-weighted echo-planar imaging (EPI) was obtained (Repetition time (TR) = 2000
msec, Echo time (TE) = 35 msec, Field of view (FOV) = 230 x 230 mm, 128 x 128
matrix, flip angle = 90°, 21 4-mm axial slices, 1-mm gap, 315 scans). A sagittal three-
dimensional T1-weighted turbo-gradient-echo sequence (3D-TFE) (160 slices, TR = 8.3
msec, TE = 3.8 msec, flip angle = 8°, FOV = 256 x 256, 1 mm3 voxels) was obtained in
the same experimental session to check for gross anatomical abnormalities for each
subject.
Brain images were analyzed using the Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM8)
software (Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, Queen
Square, London, U.K.), running under Matlab R2009 (MathWorks, Natick, MA,
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U.S.A.). Preprocessing steps included slice timing correction, re-slicing to the first
image of the time series, normalization (using affine and smoothly non-linear
transformations) to an EPI template in the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) space,
and spatial smoothing by convolution with a 3D Gaussian kernel (full width at half
maximum (FWHM)= 8 mm).
Procedure
In session 1, the initial interview and behavioral tasks were administered in the
CSI. All participants were assessed in an individual and quiet room for approximately
one hour. In session 2, fMRI scans and image ratings were taken in the Centro
Diagnóstico CEDISA (Granada, Spain) and each session lasted 1 hour.
Statistical analyses
Behavioral analyses. Behavioral data were analyzed using the Statistical
Package for the Social Sciences, version 22 (SPSS; Chicago, IL, U.S.A.). Independent-
sample t-tests or cross-tabulation analyses (depending on the type of variable) were
conducted to compare the two groups with regard to demographics and severity of
crime variables. We also performed a mixed-design ANOVA (2 groups x 3 types of
images) to analyze group differences on emotional responses by type of image as
recorded by the SAM.
Neuroimaging analyses. The BOLD response at each voxel was convolved
with the SPM8 canonical hemodynamic response function (using a 128-s high-pass
filter). Conditions were modeled for the 15 seconds that each block appeared on the
screen. To cover the study objectives, three contrasts of interest were defined at the
first-level (single-subject): (1) “IPV vs. N images”, (2) “GV vs. N images” and (3) “IPV
vs. GV images”. The resulting first-level contrast images were then used in the second-
level random-effect analyses to assess for between-group differences. For the (1) “IPV
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vs. N images” and (2) “GV vs. N images” contrasts two-sample t-test models were used
to compare group activations. For the (3) “IPV vs. GV” comparison, two approaches
were used. First, a second-level paired t-test model, using contrast images from
contrasts (1) and (2), was used to sensitively explore group effects to each type of
violence. Moreover, a collapsed across groups second-level t-test analysis using the
“IPV vs. GV” contrast images was performed to identify brain activations uniquely
associated with IPV images. For both of these latter statistical approaches, the signal
eigenvariate of the significant brain regions (peak maxima) were extracted and
group*condition interaction analyses were conducted in SPSS.
Threshold criteria. Significance in ANOVA models were established at a threshold of
p<0.05. For the imaging analyses, the spatial extent threshold was determined by 1,000
Monte Carlo simulations using AlphaSim as implemented in the SPM REST toolbox
(Song et al., 2011; Ward, 2013). For one-sample t-tests, input parameters included a
whole-brain brain mask of 283,654 voxels (2 mm x 2 mm x 2 mm), an individual voxel
threshold probability of 0.005, a cluster connection radius of 5 mm, and the actual
smoothness of the data. A minimum cluster extent (KE) of 173 voxels (1384 mm
3
) was
estimated to satisfy a P
FWE
< 0.05. Significance in two-sample and paired t-tests was
assessed using the same input parameters, masking results on the basis of activation and
deactivation maps derived from the corresponding one-sample t-test contrasts for both
study groups. Therefore, for contrasts 1 and 2, a minimum cluster extent (KE) of 91 and
94 voxels (within masks of 38491 and 61538) were estimated to satisfy a P
FWE
< 0.05,
respectively. For the paired t-test analyses, a KE of 99 voxels (within a mask of 69.598)
were estimated.
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Results
Differences between batterers and criminals in behavioral responses
Analyses showed no significant main effect for the group factor (batterers vs.
general crime), nor an interaction effect (group by type of imagine) in emotional ratings.
These findings suggested that valence, arousal and dominance ratings were the same for
batterers and criminals overall and across the type of image displayed in the fMRI task. As
expected according to the selection criteria for images, a significant main effect for type
of images (i.e. IPV, GV, N images) was observed for valence [F(2,74)= 222.61;
p=.000], arousal [F(2,74)= 40.26; p=.000], and dominance [F(2,74)= 14.60; p=.000].
For both groups, IPV images showed less valence, higher arousal, and less dominance
than GV images, and GV images showed less valence, higher arousal and less
dominance than N images (see table 2).
Neuroimaging results
Intimate partner violence vs. Neutral images (IPV>N)
Group activations: Brain activation and deactivations for the IPV>N contrast in both
groups are reported in Table 3. Criminals showed activation in the superior frontal
gyrus. Batterers, on the other hand, showed additional activation in the orbitofrontal
cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex, and significant deactivation in the anterior
cingulate cortex and the insula.
Between-group differences: Batterers, relative to criminals, demonstrated significantly
higher activation of the middle prefrontal cortex, and the anterior and posterior
cingulate cortex (Figure 1, Table 4). Criminals showed higher activation of the superior
prefrontal cortex compared to batterers (Table 4).
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General violence vs. Neutral images (GV>N)
Group activations: Brain activation and deactivations for the GV>N contrast in both
groups are reported in Table 3. Criminals showed activation in the superior frontal
gyrus, and significant deactivation in the anterior cingulate cortex, middle frontal gyrus,
insula, middle posterior cingulate cortex and temporal cortex, which was not identified
in batterers. Batterers, on the other hand, showed additional activation in the
orbitofrontal cortex, the thalamus, the precuneus and the superior parietal.
Between-group differences: Relative to criminals, batterers demonstrated significantly
higher activation of the middle prefrontal cortex, the SMA-Precuneus and the insula
(Figure 2, Table 4). Criminals showed higher activation of the superior prefrontal cortex
compared to batterers (Table 4).
Intimate partner violence vs. General violence (IPV > GV)
Group effects (Paired t-test analysis): Brain activation and deactivations for the IPV vs.
GV contrast in both groups are reported in Table 5. To IPV images, batterers showed
activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, and the left
angular gyrus, which was not identified in the OCG (Figure S1). Criminals showed no
significant activations to IPV images. To GV images, both groups showed activation in
the fusiform gyrus and the occipital cortex. Batterers showed additional activation in the
thalamus, hippocampus and supramarginal gyrus not identified in the criminal group
(Figure 3, Table 5). A group*condition interaction with the extracted signal eigenvariate
of these brain regions did not yield significant findings (all ps > 0.05). This was also the
case for the PCC, that was initially hypothesized to show an increased activation to IPV
compared to GV images in batterers relative to criminals.
IPV processing across groups (collapsed analysis): The angular gyrus was the only
region significantly associated with the processing of IPV images (MNI coordinates, x=
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-50, y= -60, z= 28, kE= 649, t= 3.4, p<0.005) across the study groups. A
group*condition interaction with the extracted signal eigenvariate of the angular gyrus
did not yield significant findings (F(1,39)=0.138, p=0.713).
Discussion
The main aim of this study is to compare the brain functioning of batterers with
that of other criminals when they observe IPV or general violence pictures. Results
reveal that batterers, as compared to other criminals, show higher activation in the
anterior and posterior cingulate cortex to IPV images compared to neutral images. In
addition, batterers demonstrate higher activation in the insula and parietal regions to GV
images compared with neutral images. They also show a higher activation in the middle
prefrontal cortex and a decreased activation in the superior prefrontal cortex to both IPV
and GV images compared to neutral images. Nevertheless, batterers do not show the
hypothesized higher activation of the PCC-precuneus during the viewing of IPV
pictures compared to GV images when compared with the criminal group, although the
PCC-precuneus is more activated in response to the IPV images in the batterers only.
Therefore, our hypotheses were partially confirmed. This distinct brain functioning is
observed regardless of differences in the subjective emotional responses between the
study groups.
The finding of a higher activation in the PCC extending to the precuneus in
response to IPV vs neutral images in batterers is consistent with our hypothesis and the
study of Lee and colleagues (2009). In this study, the authors similarly found that
batterers show an increased activation in the precuneus to aggressive-female vs neutral
images, when compared to a sample of controls non-criminals. Our approach of
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comparing the batterers’ brain functioning to that of other criminals extends these
findings, demonstrating that the activation of the PCC-precuneus specifically
characterize the brain functioning of batterers, above those of other criminals, while
processing IPV images. The PCC is key in episodic memory retrieval and emotional
reasoning (Rekkas et al., 2007). For example, PCC activation has been reported
following moral judgment of harmful actions and increased negative attitudes towards
others (Greene et al., 2001; Bruneau et al., 2010). Furthermore, batterers also show a
higher activation in the ACC to the IPV vs neutral images. At a functional level, the
ACC has been involved in self-referential aspects of thinking, emotional contagion and
affective perspective taking (Harrison, 2008; Raichle, 2001; Raine, 2006), and its
activation during the observation of pain have been predicted by individual differences
in neuroticism (Cheetham et al., 2009). This observation may be directly related to
findings showing that lower perspective taking abilities and higher levels of personal
distress in reaction to the emotions of others are related to violence perpetration in
batterers (Covell et al., 2007). Overall, increased activation in the PCC and ACC in
batterers to intimate partner images may underlie the increased negative feelings of
emotional distance that raise fears of abandonment from the significant other. This may
in turn lead batterers to have maladaptive coping and regulation of affect in the form of
obsessions about his/her partner and stalking, as documented by George and colleagues
(George et al., 2006).
The significant higher activation of the insula and the SMA-precuneus in the
parietal cortex in batterers to the GV images, relative to other criminals, is also
consistent with the brain over-activation to threatening situations found by Lee et al.,
(2009) in these individuals, and interpreted as a hyper-response to threatening stimuli.
Hyperactivation of these brain regions is one of the most common neuroimaging
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findings across fear conditioning studies (Fullana et al., 2015; Etkin and Wager, 2007).
Previous clinical and scientific work showing that batterers experience fear, autonomic
activation and bias towards the processing of negative stimuli (George et al., 2000;
Bitler et al., 1994; George et al., 1989; Chang et al., 2010) may be consistent with this
neural over-activation to the GV images in batterers. Interestingly, the anterior insula
has recently been associated particularly with perceived anxiety sensations independent
from anxiety traits (Harrison et al., 2015). This finding may be consistent with the
sudden affective instability in the form of increased anxiety, fearful mood states, anger
or rage described by batterers when challenged by his/her partner (George et al., 2006).
Furthermore, the decreased activation of the superior frontal and the increased
activation of the middle frontal gyri to both IPV and GV images may also contribute to
the affective instability and bias towards the processing of negative information in
batterers (Gross 2014; Kensinger and Schacter, 2006). This is consistent with the
deficient top-down regulatory control over excessive limbic activation already
suggested by previous studies with batterers (Lee et al., 2009; George et al., 2004) and
the preferential activation of the middle frontal gyrus to negative valence information
(Kensinger and Schacter, 2006).
However not all hypotheses were supported in this study. Specifically, the PCC
was not preferentially activated in response to IPV images relative to the GV situations
in batterers vs criminals. This was also the case for the angular gyrus, a region that
shows a preferential activation in all participants during the viewing of IPV images and
was only activated in batterers for the paired t-test. The angular gyrus is considered an
important cerebral hub (Timoty and Volkow, 2011), consistently involved in semantic
processing, attentional shifting, spatial cognition, episodic and autobiographical
memory retrieval, DMN, conflict resolution, and theory of Mind (Seghier, 2013).
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Therefore, the activation of the angular gyrus in the batterer group when they viewed
IPV compared to GV images in paired analyses could be explained by the fact that IPV
images activated autobiographical and episodic memory of past IPV events in batterers.
Further studies with larger samples may be interested in investigating whether
impairment of the angular gyrus in batterers is associated with their capacity to judge
attempted harms as morally right or wrong.
Despite differences in brain functioning, there are a lack of differences between
batterers and other criminals in the emotional behavioral responses
.
The absence of such
differences may be related to the batterers’ response bias for social desirability. Social
desirability has not been previously reported in emotional tasks, but it has been
measured in personality questionnaires (Gibbons et al., 2011). This important concern,
referred to as explicit subjective measures in batterers, has motivated the development
of new implicit tasks to measure attitudes in batterers. Its inclusion may likely benefit
further studies with batterer samples (Eckhardt et al., 2012).
Nevertheless, the generalization of our results are limited for several reasons.
First, the sample size is relatively small, which may have made it difficult to reach
statistical significance in some comparisons. Even so, our results are similar to other
published articles that use smaller samples, and the sample size of the present study is
the largest to date. Second, categorizing types of crime is difficult due to the complex
characteristics of each case.
Another limitation was related to the representativeness of
the IPV group. In order to reduce the influence of confounders in the MRI analyses,
participants with a history of substance abuse or personality disorder were excluded.
Third, we do not have objective evidence that the stimuli were attended to equally by
both groups, although there were no differences between groups in the activation of the
occipital cortex in the comparison between task conditions (Vuilleumier, 2005).
Lastly,
at Universidad de Granada - Biblioteca on February 17, 2016http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
our research has been conducted in “first episode” batterers with low severity of
violence. Despite this limitation, the findings from the present study indicate that even
batterers who are not imprisoned show brain differences.
In sum, our results have shown that batterers have different brain functioning, as
compared to other criminals, when they observe both intimate partner violence and
general violence images as compared to neutral images. Future studies should replicate
our results in batterers who have committed more severe offenses.
Acknowledgements
This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, (Project:
PSI 2009-13585), Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project: PSI2013-42792-
R), and Regional Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Science from Andalusian
Government (Project: P2012-SEJ1723).
A Sara Borrell postdoctoral fellowship (CD14/00246) of the Carlos III Health Institute
to OCR.
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Figure Legends
Figure 1. Main group activations (red) and deactivations (blue) to IPV>N in criminals
(A) and batterers (B). Between-group differences (C) show increased (red) and
decreased (blue) brain activity in batterers. The right hemisphere corresponds to the
right side of the axial and coronal views. Sagittal images show the right hemisphere in
B and C views, and the left hemisphere in A view. The color bar indicates t-values.
Figure 2. Main group activations (red) and deactivations (blue) to GV>N in criminals
(A) and batterers (B). Between-group differences (C) show increased (red) and
decreased (blue) brain activity in batterers. The right hemisphere corresponds to the
right side of the axial and coronal views, and sagittal images show the right hemisphere
in all views. The color bar indicates t-values.
Figure 3. Brain regions showing significant differences in the comparison between GV
and IPV conditions in criminals (A) and batterers (B). The right hemisphere
corresponds to the right side of the axial and coronal views. Sagittal images show the
right hemisphere in B ‘IPV>GV’ view, and the left hemisphere in the other sagittal
views. The color bar indicates t-values.
Figure S1: Relative activity of the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex,
and angular gyrus for the contrasts intimate partner violence vs neutral images (IPV>N)
and general violence vs neutral images (GV>N) in batterers and other criminals. The
activity of these regions is displayed for the criminal group as a reference, although
paired t-test analyses showed a significant effect only in batterers (* indicate statistical
significance).
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Table 1: Demographic and crime characteristics of batterers (BG) and other criminal
groups (CG).
Variables (Mean (SD)) BG CG P-value
Age
38.38 (8.70)
34.40 (8.66)
0.15
9.62 (3.90)
9.45 (2.42)
0.8
7
IQ
99.83 (14.29)
92.85
(13.32)
0.1
3
Time of crime [%(n)]
Misdemeanor
IPV
-
PV=
38 % (8)
SCF/DD= 50% (10)
0.44
Felony
IPV
-
PPV= 62%(13)
GAR/VF= 50% (10)
SD= standard deviation; IPV-Psychological Violence= PV; Scams or Crime of
Forgery= SCF; DD= Dangerous Driving; IPV-PPV= IPV-
Physical and Psychological
Violence; GAR= Grave assault/ robbery; VF= Violent fight
Table 2. Descriptive scores and mixed-design ANOVA results for the valence, arousal,
and dominance affective dimensions.
Variables
Mean (SD)
BG CG Main effect Interaction
IPVI GVI NI IPVI GVI NI Group
P-value
TI
P-value
Group*TI
P-value
Valence 1.44
(0.53)
2.22
(0.91)
5.76
(1.23)
1.59
(0.64)
2.54
(0.90)
5.58
(1.05)
0.57 0.000 0.67
Arousal 7.48 6.53 4.41 7.08 6.42 4.48 0.68 0.000 0.63
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(1.80) (1.74) (1.39) (2.01)
(1.60)
(0.87)
Dominance
5.14
(2.87)
5.88
(2.20)
6.51
(1.81)
4.10
(2.50)
5.16
(2.20)
7.03
(1.48)
0.45 0.000 0.33
SD= standard deviation; BG= Batterers Groups; CG= Other Criminals Group; IPVI= Intimate
Partner Violence Images; GVI= General Violence Images; NI= Neutral Images; TI= Type of
Imagen
Table 3: Brain activations and deactivations observed during IPV > N and GV > N
contrasts in within-group (one-sample) whole brain analyses.
Brain region
Batterers
Other Criminal
s
x, y, z kE t value x,y,z kE t value
IPV > N
Activations
Superior PFC
ns 8, 64, 30 973* 4.7
Inferior PFC
42, 16, 20
484
4.2
60, 28, 34
706
3.9
Medial PFC 4, 50, 14 616 3.1 -4, 54, 18 973* 4.3
OFC
4, 62,
-
14
287
4.9
ns
PCC 4, -58, 30 1392 5.1 ns
Temporal
52,
-
68, 2
20891*
11.0
50,
-
72,
-
4
20266*
10.0
-42, -76, -2 20891* 10.7 -42, -76, -2 20266* 9.9
PAG
ns
2,
-
34,
-
8
238
3.7
Occipital -4, -90, 4 20891* 7.2 8, -88, 4 20266* 8.1
Deactivations
ACC
ns -2, 32, 28 2147* 6.4
Middle PFC
38, 38, 18
784
5.2
32, 26, 34
452
5.4
-32, 38, 10 199 3.9 -26, 28, 32 2147* 4.8
OFC
30, 62,
-
6
294
4.2
-
14, 22,
-
16
181
3.7
-38, 54, 2 202 3.5 ns
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Fusiform gyrus
30,
-
54, 0
1055*
4.4
32,
-
44,
-
6
177
3.8
-34, -52, -6 379 3.6 -20, -46, 2 530 3.4
Middle PCC
6,
-
34, 40
1055*
3.6
-
2,
-
36, 44
465
4.8
Insula
ns 48, -24 12 892 4.3
Angular gyrus
ns
54,
-
44, 66
942
3.8
-44, -42, 38 228 4.0 -46, -54, 36 351 4.4
GV > N
Activations
Superior PFC ns -10, 62, 36 1379 4.9
Inferior
PFC
46, 16, 18
1044*
4.3
50, 10, 32
1262
4.4
OFC 6, 70, -18 388 3.9 ns
Precentral gyrus
40,
-
2, 46
1044*
4.2
ns
-32, -12, 42 348 3.8 ns
Amygdala
-
HPC
20,
-
4,
-
20
36259*
5.1
32,
-
16,
-
18
320
3.8
-22, -8, -20 36259* 3.8 ns
Thalamus
14,
-
26,
-
2
36259*
5.5
ns
-10, -24, -6 36259* 4.1 ns
Fusiform gyrus
38,
-
56,
-
20
36259*
6.9
38,
-
56,
-
16
27576*
5.1
-40, -44, -20 36259* 5.1 -49, -52, -22 27576* 7.9
Precuneus
6,
-
56, 44
36259*
4.3
ns
Superior Parietal 26, -60, 48 36259* 4.1 ns
-
26,
-
54, 46
207
3.4
ns
Temporal 50, -72, 0 36259* 12.6 50, -72, -2 27576* 11.7
-
44,
-
76,
-
2
36259*
10.5
-
42,
-
74,
-
2
27576*
9.8
Occipital 16, -88, 6 36259* 11.4 8, -86, -8 27576* 13.8
Deactivations
ACC ns 6, 34, 14 2198* 4.3
Orbitofrontal
-
26, 58, 6
366
3.7
-
34, 54, 2
2198*
4.0
Middle PFC ns 34, 28, 36 399 4.4
ns
-
34, 12, 44
862
4.6
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x,y,z= MNI peak coordinates; kE= Cluster extent in voxels; IPV= Intimate Partner Violence;
GV= General Violence; N= Neutral; ns= nonsignificant; * part of a larger cluster; PFC=
Prefrontal Cortex; OFC= Orbitofrontal Cortex; PCC= Posterior Cingulate Cortex; PAG=
Periaqueductal Gray; ACC= Anterior Cingulate Cortex; HPC= Hippocampus; SMA=
Supplementary Motor Area.
Table 4: Brain regions showing significantly differences between groups during IPV >
N and GV > N contrasts.
SMA
ns
30,
-
16, 58
528
5.2
Insula ns 48, 8, -6 2323* 4.9
ns
-
44, 18,
-
6
258
3.8
Middle PCC ns -2, -18, 66 829 4.2
Angular
50,
-
54, 36
636
5.2
48,
-
50, 40
3303
5.8
ns -44, -58, 38 3117 4.5
Temporal
ns
64,
-
22,
-
10
2323*
3.5
-64, -30, -6 859 4.2
Brain region x, y, z kE t value
IPV > N
Other Criminals > Batterers
Superior PFC 10, 60, 40 156 3.4
Batterers>Other Criminals
Middle PFC -20 26, 34 130 3.9
ACC -2, 30, 26 252 4.0
PCC - Precuneus 14, -52, 34 98 3.5
GV> N
Other Criminals>Batterers
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x,y,z= MNI peak
coordinates; kE=
Cluster extent in voxels; IPV= Intimate Partner Violence; GV= General Violence; N= Neutral;
PFC= Prefrontal Cortex; ACC= Anterior Cingulate Cortex; PCC= Posterior Cingulate Cortex;
Table 5: Brain regions showing significantly differences within groups (paired t-test)
between IPV and GV images.
Brain region
Batterers
Brain region
Other Criminals
x, y, z kE t value x, y, z kE t value
IPV>GV
Medial PFC 2, 48, 26 328 5.9
PCC -4, -62, 24 111 3.3
Angular -56, -56, 28 216 3.9
GV>IPV
GV>IPV
Fusiform gyrus 30, -40, -20 8528* 6.1 Fusiform gyrus 30, -60, 10 4635* 4.8
-28, -42, -22 8528* 6.5 -32, -60, -18
4635* 4.5
Occipital -20, -88, -20 8528* 8.0 Occipital -28, -86, -20
4635* 6.3
Thalamus 24, -20, -2 178 4.6
Superior PFC -8, 62, 34 145 3.7
Batterers>Other Criminals
Precentral 28, -16, 62 360 5.1
SMA-Precuneus 6, -12, 52 696 4.0
Middle PFC -24, 28, 30 131 3.4
Insula 48, 8, -6 958 3.8
-54, -8, 10 316 3.6
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-10, -20, -4 289* 5.4
HPC 24, -24, -6 178 3.2
-24, -24, -6 289* 4.2
Supramarginal 64, -24, 26 103 4.3
x,y,z= MNI peak coordinates; kE= Cluster extent in voxels; IPV= Intimate Partner Violence;
GV= General Violence; * part of a larger cluster; PFC= Prefrontal Cortex; PCC= Posterior
Cingulate Cortex; HPC= Hippocampus.
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... Although differences in functioning for IPV offenders involved in the criminal justice system varied by study depending on the comparison group used. In general, there are few differences in neurocognitive profiles between IPV offenders and other violent offenders who are incarcerated, except for cognitive flexibility (i.e. the brain's ability to adapt to new events or switch attention between multiple tasks) which has been shown to be decreased in IPV offenders when compared to other violent criminals and controls (Becerra-García, 2015;Bueso-Izquierdo et al., 2016;Lishak et al., 2019). In studies comparing IPV offenders to healthy community controls, IPV offenders have less cognitive flexibility (Romero-Martínez, Lila, & Moya-Albiol, 2019; Romero-Martínez, Lila, Sariñana-González, et al., 2013) and lower executive functioning (Stanford et al., 2007;Westby & Ferraro, 1999), as well as lower impulse control (Chan et al., 2010;Schafer & Fals-Stewart, 1997). ...
... Studies have explored structural and functional brain changes in IPV offenders using various imaging and electrophysiology modalities including MRI (Bueso-Izquierdo et al., 2019), functional MRI (Zhang et al., 2013), PET (George et al., 2004), and EEG (Baker et al., 2022;Fink et al., 2019;Maldonado, 2014;Stanford et al., 2007). These studies suggest that men who use IPV have both structural and functional brain differences when compared to healthy controls (Zhang et al., 2013) and generally violent men (Bueso-Izquierdo et al., 2016). However, given significant heterogeneity in the imaging modality, protocol (e.g., stimuli) and outcomes of interest for each study, as well as small sample sizes, specific and reliable conclusions are limited (Chester & DeWall, 2019). ...
... However, given significant heterogeneity in the imaging modality, protocol (e.g., stimuli) and outcomes of interest for each study, as well as small sample sizes, specific and reliable conclusions are limited (Chester & DeWall, 2019). Grossly, two main brain regions appear to be involved in IPV behavior: the prefrontal cortex, where differences in activation have been indicated in the middle prefrontal and superior prefrontal cortex when comparing men who use IPV to general criminals (Bueso-Izquierdo et al., 2016); and the amygdala where research suggests reduced volume of the amygdala in men who have used IPV and an association between IPV use and increased functional connectivity between the amygdala and left inferior frontal gyrus in couples where IPV is used (Flanagan et al., 2019;Verdejo-Román et al., 2019). Further, research has suggested that the use of IPV by men may also be due, in part, to poor control of the limbic system which has been shown to become increasingly activated in response to stimuli related to violence against women (Lee et al., 2009;Lee, Chan, & Raine, 2008). ...
Article
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a significant public health concern globally with substantial impact on the health of victims. Although research on IPV has increased substantially over the past several decades, effective evidence-based interventions to address IPV behaviors by men remain limited. The IPV field has lacked a comprehensive review of the status of research across the broad areas that have been found to be associated with use of IPV behaviors. This paper reviewed quantitative research studies of the genetic, neurocognitive, neuroendocrine, and selected environmental underpinnings of IPV behavior in men to develop a conceptual model. To date, environmental studies have been the most extensive with focus on early life adversity, trauma, attachment and substance misuse. Head injuries and neuropsychological impacts have indicated deficits in cognitive flexibility and executive functioning related to the prefrontal cortex are common in men who use IPV. Fewer studies have examined neuroendocrine or hormonal factors impacting IPV behavior but there is some evidence that cortisol and testosterone may play a role. Genetics factors have been the least explored, although there is emerging evidence of genetic heritability, and gene by environment interactions. A more comprehensive understanding of biological, psychological, and social factors will advance future IPV research and intervention.
... Thus, combining both types of tests in the same study could help us to discover whether they are closely related. Since the tests based on questionnaires or instruments show us the variables concerning behaviour and the mechanisms of perceptual, cognitive, and motor control, as well as explaining the necessary components for carrying out a task, neuroimaging can reveal which specific areas of the brain are activated by certain cognitive or behavioural tasks [24][25][26]. As both types of test correlate and complement each other, they can be a useful joint tool for professionals in psychology. ...
... Following the lines of the above study, we found another research article that also used images while applying neuroimaging [24]. In this case, the sample was divided into males condemned for intimate partner violence and males condemned for other crimes; the images were divided into three categories: images of intimate partner violence, images of general violence, and neutral images. ...
... It was also the first study to examine the neural bases regulating emotions in male abusers. In this study, as in those of Lee et al. [20] and Bueso-Izquierdo et al. [24], an observational exercise concerning images was also carried out while applying the neuroimaging technique. The images were divided into three categories: neutral images, images with a negative valence, and images related to intimate partner violence, while the last category had images used by Bueso-Izquierdo et al. [24]. ...
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This bibliographic review analyses the utility for psychologists of using neuroimaging tests and psychological or neuropsychological tests at the same time for studying the functioning of the brain in male abusers condemned for intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW). So as to be able to find an answer, we reviewed the available studies that investigated the structure or functioning of the brain. The results of these reviewed works of research show the benefits of using neuroimaging applied to male abusers, together with the use, either simultaneously or not, of other types of psychological, neuropsychological, or observational tests to complement and/or amplify the results of the neuroimaging techniques, as this can help us to advance in the knowledge of neuroscience as concerns the mind of the male abuser
... More concretely, a study of Lee et al. 17,18 demonstrated less activation of prefrontal areas and higher activation of the limbic system (amygdala) and insula in male perpetrators compared to controls in response to aggressive stimuli. Another study 19 demonstrated similar results in male perpetrators in comparison to other convicted men. Finally, a recent study 20 showed that male perpetrators present specific prefrontal and amygdalar activation during different emotional regulation processes in comparison to non-offenders and other offenders. ...
... Therefore, the purpose of this research is to study, for the first time, the resting-state functional connectivity of the brain systems involved in social decision-making 12 in male perpetrators and compare it to two groups: men with no criminal records and men convicted for crimes unrelated to IPVAW 19 . Moreover, as an exploratory aim, we examined the possible association between the specific functional connectivity of male perpetrators and the executive functioning (i.e.: updating process, inhibition, decision-making and cognitive flexibility), and the socio-emotional processes (i.e.: empathy, emotion recognition, emotion regulation, distorted thoughts about women and violence and impulsivity) previously found altered in this population. ...
... To date, there are no previous studies exploring the rsFC in male perpetrators and given the novelty of this line of research, we did not make a priori hypotheses about the specific connections that would be implicated nor about the directionality of effects, however, based on the resting-state literature in violent populations 21,22 and the studies of brain activation in male perpetrators 9,17,19 , we hypothesized that male perpetrators would present a different resting-state functional connectivity in comparison to non-offenders and other offenders, between prefrontal areas (reflective system) and amygdala-striatal and insular areas (impulsive and interoceptive system). ...
Article
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Intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) is a serious and overwhelming public concern. Neuroimaging techniques have provided insights into the brain mechanisms underlying IPVAW perpetration. The purpose of this study is to examine the resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) involving the process of social decision-making of male perpetrators. Twenty-six male perpetrators convicted for an IPVAW crime were compared to 29 men convicted for crimes other than IPVAW (other offenders) and 29 men with no criminal records (non-offenders) using a seed-based approach. Seeds were located in areas involved in reflective (prefrontal), impulsive (amygdala and striatum) and interoceptive (insula) processing. Then, as an exploratory analysis, the connectivity networks on male perpetrators were correlated with measures of executive functions and socioemotional self-report measures. Male perpetrators in comparison to other offenders and non-offenders, presented higher rsFC between prefrontal, limbic, brainstem, temporal and basal ganglia areas. Also male perpetrators showed higher rsFC between insula, default mode network and basal ganglia, while lower rsFC was found between prefrontal and motor areas and between amygdala, occipital and parietal areas. Exploratory correlations suggest that the specific rsFC in male perpetrators might be more related to socioemotional processes than to executive functions. These results showed that male perpetrators present a specific rsFC in brain systems that are essential for an adaptive social decision-making.
... Recently, Bueso-Izquierdo et al. (2016) answered these open-ended questions by conducting an fMRI experiment on the cohort previously described. 21 batterers and 20 criminals, convicted of other crimes than IPVAW, participated in an fMRI session. ...
... Nevertheless, additional methodological concerns could have influenced the incongruence of results in the aforementioned cerebral research. Limitations have already been discussed in other papers (Bueso-Izquierdo et al., 2016;Daugherty, Verdejo-Román, et al., 2020;Valera, Cao, et al., 2019). We would point to future neuroimaging studies having larger sample sizes that include more subgroups, in order to be able, later, to better specify a typology in the case of male batterers and specify the consequences in the case of the victims. ...
Article
Background This critical review analyzes neuroimaging studies that examine the brain functioning and structure of male batterers, as well as the brain sequeale of women and children who are victims of intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW). Objective/method Collect and discuss results from neuroimaging research focusing on intimate partner violence against women, to better understand this social problem. Results/conclusions Current literature demonstrates a specific pattern in male batterers compared to other criminals, brain alterations in female victims related to having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, and volumetric global changes and alterations in many brain regions in child victims, which may increase their vulnerability to psychopathology. Neuroimaging techniques can be very useful in establishing patterns of activity and brain damage and, in the future, may also help in forensic processes.
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El presente artículo aborda la intersección entre parentalidad, género y violencia que caracteriza frecuentemente las infancias de los hombres que ejercen violencia contra sus parejas. En sus experiencias familiares, la violencia aparece como un continuum, presenta un carácter simultáneamente destructivo y productivo, lleva consigo una forma de pedagogía que conduce a su normalización y aprendizaje como un recurso de uso legítimo en sus relaciones afectivas y es instrumentalizada por sus padres –y en ocasiones con reconocimiento por parte de sus madres– para inculcarles el principio de jerarquía de género, su deseabilidad y legitimidad. El análisis de sus experiencias infantiles sugiere que la construcción de sus masculinidades está estrechamente vinculada al poder, pero también a la vulnerabilidad y a la alienación, donde diferentes formas de violencia tienen un papel fundamental y fundacional.
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The question of the biological disposition to crime is as old as criminology itself. In 1876, Cesare Lombroso tried to create typologies for different types of crimes based on the physical appearance of criminals. This form of biological criminology reached its dramatic peak during the Nazi era and was banned after the Second World War. The technical development of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has led to a recent renaissance of neurocriminology. This research has produced results which posit a connection between an individual's behaviour and their brain structure and functionality, but also various challenges regarding this method have been subject to discussion and debate. These included concerns about data security and the existence of free will. Additionally, fundamental methodological uncertainties demand further examination. The desire to expand the existing, mostly sociologically oriented findings of criminology to include risk factors of biological disposition is confronted with questions of the validity and reliability of the results obtained. This paper traces and discusses the current debate around the employment of fMRI in the context of delinquent behaviour for the areas mentioned above.
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Social mentalizing refers to the ability to understand the intentions, causes, emotions and beliefs of another person or the self and is crucial for interpersonal understanding. Disturbances in this process may lead to aggressive and violent behaviors. Literature has shown that male perpetrators convicted for intimate partner crime (IPVAW) present alterations in different measures related to social mentalizing, in particular, they present more irrational thoughts toward women and altered emotional recognition and empathy processes. However, the brain mechanisms underlying this process are still unknown. The aim of this study is to examine the resting-state functional connectivity of the cerebellar Crus II area, as a core component of social mentalizing, in male perpetrators, and to explore if this connectivity is associated with social mentalizing processes. To achieve these objectives, we compared the resting-state connectivity of 25 men convicted for an IPVAW crime (male perpetrators) with 29 men convicted for other crimes (other offenders) and 28 men with no criminal records (non-offenders) using a seed-based whole brain analysis. Subsequently, correlations were performed to explore the association between the significant connectivity networks and social mentalizing measures only in male perpetrators of IPVAW. Analyses showed that male perpetrators of IPVAW exhibit hyperconnectivity between Crus II and posterior areas of the default mode network, frontoparietal and limbic areas compared to other offenders and non-offenders. In addition, the greater connectivity found between the Crus II and the posterior default mode network was related to a greater number of distorted thoughts about women and less affective empathy in male perpetrators of IPVAW. These results show that connectivity between the cerebellum and the default mode network may underlie the social processes that are at the basis of intimate partner violence perpetration.
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Intimate partner violence (IPV) survivors frequently report face, head, and neck as their injury site. Many mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are undiagnosed or underreported among IPV survivors while these injuries may be linked to changes in brain function or pathology. TBI sustained due to IPV often occurs over time and ranges in severity. The aim of this case-series study was to explore risk factors, symptoms, and brain changes unique to survivors of intimate partner violence with suspicion of TBI. This case-series exploratory study examines the potential relationships among IPV, mental health issues, and TBI. Participants of this study included six women: 3 women with a history of IPV without any experience of concussive blunt force to the head, and 3 women with a history of IPV with concussive head trauma. Participants completed 7T MRI of the brain, self-report psychological questionnaires regarding their mental health, relationships, and IPV, and the Structured Clinical Interview. MRI scans were analyzed for cerebral hemorrhage, white matter disturbance, and cortical thinning. Results indicated significant differences in resting-state connectivity among survivors of partner violence as well as differences in relationship dynamics and mental health symptoms. White matter hyperintensities are also observed among the survivors. Developing guidelines and recommendations for TBI-risk screening, referrals, and appropriate service provision is crucial for the effective treatment of TBI-associated IPV. Early and accurate characterization of TBI in survivors of IPV may relieve certain neuropsychological consequences.
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People sometimes hurt those they profess to love; yet our understanding of intimate partner aggression (IPA) and its causes remains incomplete. We examined brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in an ethnically and racially diverse sample of 50 female-male, monogamous romantic couples as they completed an aggression task against their intimate partner, a close friend, and a different-sex stranger. Laboratory and real-world IPA were uniquely associated with altered activity within and connectivity between cortical midline structures that subserve social cognition and the computation of value. Men’s IPA most corresponded to lower posterior cingulate reactivity during provocation and women’s IPA most corresponded to lower ventromedial prefrontal cortex activity during IPA itself. Actor-partner independence modeling suggested women’s IPA may correspond to their male partner’s neural reactivity to provocation. Broadly, these findings highlight the importance of self-regulatory functions of the medial cortex and away from effortful inhibition subserved by dorsolateral cortices.
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Classical Pavlovian fear conditioning remains the most widely employed experimental model of fear and anxiety, and continues to inform contemporary pathophysiological accounts of clinical anxiety disorders. Despite its widespread application in human and animal studies, the neurobiological basis of fear conditioning remains only partially understood. Here we provide a comprehensive meta-analysis of human fear-conditioning studies carried out with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), yielding a pooled sample of 677 participants from 27 independent studies. As a distinguishing feature of this meta-analysis, original statistical brain maps were obtained from the authors of 13 of these studies. Our primary analyses demonstrate that human fear conditioning is associated with a consistent and robust pattern of neural activation across a hypothesized genuine network of brain regions resembling existing anatomical descriptions of the 'central autonomic-interoceptive network'. This finding is discussed with a particular emphasis on the neural substrates of conscious fear processing. Our associated meta-analysis of functional deactivations-a scarcely addressed dynamic in fMRI fear-conditioning studies-also suggests the existence of a coordinated brain response potentially underlying the 'safety signal' (that is, non-threat) processing. We attempt to provide an integrated summary on these findings with the view that they may inform ongoing studies of fear-conditioning processes both in healthy and clinical populations, as investigated with neuroimaging and other experimental approaches.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 30 June 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.88.
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