Research Journal Social Neuroscience Dedicates Special Issue to Brain Studies of Aggression, Violence & Psychopathy

Posted by admin on February 25, 2013

One of the most important aspects of ponerology – a crucial one in seeking answers regarding why people act (or fail to act) in ways that do harm to others – is investigation into what goes on in the brain when people relate with each other in various ways. We might term such investigation “social neuroscience.”

Well there is actually a research journal by that very name. And that journal, Social Neuroscience, has recently honed in on topics at the very heart of ponerology. Its latest issue – Volume 8, Issue 2 – is a special issue focusing on aggression and violence.

It features an editorial entitled “The social cognitive neuroscience of aggression, violence, and psychopathy” followed by six studies that consider the links between neurological markers and responses and harmful behavior.

Here is a summary of the six studies in this special issue.

Affective startle potentiation in juvenile offenders: The role of conduct problems and psychopathic traits

The neural signatures of distinct psychopathic traits

Neural correlates of risk taking in violent criminal offenders characterized by emotional hypo- and hyper-reactivity

Vasopressin modulates neural responses during human reactive aggression

Endogenous testosterone and cortisol modulate neural responses during induced anger control

Asymmetry in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and aggressive behavior: A continuous theta-burst magnetic stimulation study

As the introductory editorial describes, this issue is a reflection of the shift in the mid-90’s from a focus on attentional differences in the aggressive and psychopathic to a focus on their neurobiological and emotional dysfunctions, even though attentional differences also play an important role. It says the included studies, as a whole, demonstrate three themes:

  1. “That there are different neurobiological risk factors for an increased risk for aggression and antisocial behavior.” – The risk factors associated with psychopathy differ from those associated with threat/frustration based reactive aggression, for example.
  2. A relationship between reinforcement processing – processing of potential risk and rewards – and psychopathy
  3. A potential relationship between brain areas associated with top-down attention and response control and “an increased risk for predominantly reactive aggression.”

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