Anger provocation in violent offenders leads to emotion dysregulation

Franca Tonnaer, Nicolette Siep, Linda van Zutphen, Arnoud Arntz, Maaike Cima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Anger and anger regulation problems that result in aggressive behaviour pose a serious problem for society. In this study we investigated differences in brain responses during anger provocation or anger engagement, as well as anger regulation or distraction from anger, and compared 16 male violent offenders to 18 non-offender controls. During an fMRI adapted provocation and regulation task participants were presented with angry, happy and neutral scenarios. Prior research on violent offenders indicates that a combination of increased limbic activity (involved in emotion), along with decreased prefrontal activity (involved in emotion regulation), is associated with reactive aggression. We found increased ventrolateral prefrontal activity during anger engagement in violent offenders, while decreased dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal activity was found during anger distraction. This activity pattern was specific for anger. We found no exclusive pattern for happiness. In violent offenders, this suggests an increased need to regulate specifically during anger engagement and regulation difficulties when explicitly instructed to distract. The constant effort required for violent offenders to regulate anger might exhaust the necessary cognitive resources, resulting in a risk for self-control failure. Consequently, continuous provocation might ultimately contribute to reactive aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3583
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2017

Keywords

  • NEURAL RESPONSES
  • PSYCHOPATHY
  • BEHAVIOR
  • MEN
  • ARTICULATED THOUGHTS
  • AGGRESSION QUESTIONNAIRE
  • IMPULSIVITY
  • BATTERERS
  • BRAIN
  • FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

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