Dysfunction in the Neural Circuitry of Emotion Regulation—A Possible Prelude to Violence

Abstract

Emotion is normally regulated in the human brain by a complex circuit consisting of the orbital frontal cortex, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and several other interconnected regions. There are both genetic and environmental contributions to the structure and function of this circuitry. We posit that impulsive aggression and violence arise as a consequence of faulty emotion regulation. Indeed, the prefrontal cortex receives a major serotonergic projection, which is dysfunctional in individuals who show impulsive violence. Individuals vulnerable to faulty regulation of negative emotion are at risk for violence and aggression. Research on the neural circuitry of emotion regulation suggests new avenues of intervention for such at-risk populations.

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