Neuroethics Publications

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

1-1-2014

Publication Source

Biological Psychiatry

Volume

75

Issue

1

Start Page

73

Last Page

80

DOI

10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.04.003

Abstract

Background

Reduced amygdala volume has been implicated in the development of severe and persistent aggression and the development of psychopathic personality. With longitudinal data, the current study examined whether male subjects with lower amygdala volume have a history of aggression and psychopathic features dating back to childhood and are at increased risk for engaging in future aggression/violence.

Methods

Participants were selected from a longitudinal study of 503 male subjects initially recruited when they were in the first grade in 1986–1987. At age 26, a subsample of 56 men with varying histories of violence was recruited for a neuroimaging substudy. Automated segmentation was used to index individual differences in amygdala volume. Analyses examined the association between amygdala volume and levels of aggression and psychopathic features of participants measured in childhood and adolescence. Analyses also examined whether amygdala volume was associated with violence and psychopathic traits assessed at a 3-year follow-up.

Results

Men with lower amygdala volume exhibited higher levels of aggression and psychopathic features from childhood to adulthood. Lower amygdala volume was also associated with aggression, violence, and psychopathic traits at a 3-year follow-up, even after controlling for earlier levels of these features. All effects remained after accounting for several potential confounds.

Conclusions

This represents the first prospective study to demonstrate that men with lower amygdala volume have a longstanding history of aggression and psychopathic features and are at increased risk for committing future violence. Studies should further examine whether specific amygdala abnormalities might be a useful biomarker for severe and persistent aggression.

Copyright/Permission Statement

NOTICE: This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Biological Psychiatry. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms, may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Biological Psychiatry, Vol 75, Issue 1, January 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.04.003.

Keywords

aggression, amygdala, longitudinal, psychopathy, violence, volume

 

Date Posted: 16 February 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.