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Published Online: 16 February 2016

The Neurobiology of Impulsive Aggression

Publication: Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Volume 26, Issue Number 1


This selective review provides a model of the neurobiology of impulsive aggression from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. It is argued that prototypical cases of impulsive aggression, those associated with anger, involve the recruitment of the acute threat response system structures; that is, the amygdala, hypothalamus, and periaqueductal gray. It is argued that whether the recruitment of these structures results in impulsive aggression or not reflects the functional roles of ventromedial frontal cortex and dorsomedial frontal and anterior insula cortex in response selection. It is also argued that impulsive aggression may occur because of impaired decision making. The aggression may not be accompanied by anger, but it will reflect disrupted evaluation of the rewards/benefits of the action.

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Published In

cover image Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Volume 26Issue Number 1February 2016
Pages: 4 - 9
PubMed: 26465707


Published online: 16 February 2016
Published in print: February 2016
Published ahead of print: 14 October 2015


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Robert J. R. Blair, PhD
Section of Affective Cognitive Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland.


Funding: This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health under grant number 1-ZIA-MH002860-08.
Address correspondence to:Robert J. R. Blair, PhDSection of Affective Cognitive NeuroscienceNational Institute of Mental HealthNational Institutes of HealthDepartment of Health and Human ServicesBethesda, MD 20852E-mail: [email protected]


No competing financial interests exist.

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