A multivariate approach to aggression and the orbital frontal cortex in psychiatric patients

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; Aggression; Arousal; Brain Mapping; Dominance, Cerebral; Female; Frontal Lobe; Humans; Impulsive Behavior; *Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Male; Mental Disorders; Middle Aged; Motivation; Personality Inventory; Reference Values; Violence


Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


The association between orbital frontal cortex (OFC) volume and aggression was investigated in an at-risk psychiatric population. Forty-one psychiatric patients were referred for magnetic resonance imaging and a standardized psychometric assessment of aggression (Lifetime History of Aggression-Revised). Nineteen matched controls had lower levels of aggression and greater OFC volume, establishing the appropriateness of the psychiatric group for studying aggression pathophysiology. Consistent with study hypotheses, left OFC gray matter volume predicted 34% of the variance in self-reported aggression ratings. When impulsivity was not controlled for, left OFC gray matter only accounted for 26% of aggression variance, suggesting a complex relationship between impulsivity and OFC-aggression pathophysiology. Contrary to study hypotheses, right OFC gray matter volume did not predict degree of aggressive behavior. Current models do not account for lateralization, yet this may be quite important. Greater consideration should be given to laterality in OFC regulation of social/emotional behavior. Regulatory focus theory, positing two motivational systems, promotion and prevention, lateralized to the left and right hemispheres, respectively, may provide an explanatory framework for these results. Dysregulation of the left hemisphere 'promotion' motivational system may help to explain the aggressive behavior present in psychiatric populations.

DOI of Published Version



Psychiatry Res. 2009 Mar 31;171(3):145-54. Epub 2009 Feb 11. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Psychiatry research

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID