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Reactive aggression vs proactive aggression


empirical support exists for the distinction between reactive and proactive aggression (Little, 2003)


The dark tetrad

Personality traits involved in aggression & violence: Paulhus et al. (2002)
- Psychopathy (Boldness/Disinhibition/Meanness)
- Machiavellianism
- Narcissism
- Sadism
** common core of callous – manipulation


Aggression Questionnaire
Who & what?

Buss & Perry (1994)
- Physical, Verbal, Hostility, Anger – what the components of reactive aggression are
- gold standard for measuring aggression
- Looks mainly @ Reactive aggression
- Tells us the level of aggression in someone


Aggression Questionnaire

- Transferability cos mainly tested on college students
a) Petterson et al. (2017) --> Violent offenders 12 item > 29 item & if AQ is measure of reactive aggression -- violent offenders whose offences may not be exclusively or even primarily affectively driven may not be appropriately measured with the AQ


Reactive-Proactive AQ
Who & what? + for

Raine (2006) - motivation for aggression
- Antisocial, psychosocial and personality measures to predict the 2 forms of violence

Has been shown to be valid for:
1. females Pechorro et al. (2017) (despite being developed on boys)
2. incarcerated Portuguese male juvenile offenders Pechorro et al. (2017) -- cross cultural


Reactive-Proactive AQ

Bass & Nussbaum, 2010
- only captures well thought out aggression for instrumental gain NOT proactive aggression carried out in an impulsive manner
- RPQ does not distinguish between reactive aggression triggered by anger and reactive aggression triggered by fear.
^ might have distinct aetiologies
- Many items describe anger and aggression (‘‘Gotten angry when frustrated,’’) = confusion of anger and aggression


Risk assessment strategies: overall state of the literature (4)

- Overall summary: quality of literature is quite weak and overreliance with cross sectional design

a) hard to measure - keep track of them/impulsivity --> lack of follow up (Long term data)(all cross sectional)
b) ethnocentrism
c) dont determine if the risk factors are actually a cause of the aggression (i.e. is impulsivity from being hit in the head too much)
d) The capacity to generalise from offender to non-offender populations and to draw conclusions for general (e.g. acute) mental health services is thus somewhat limited.

** need dev of new tools that will improve reliability and robustness of the ID of risk factors


Psychopathy checklist-R (PC-R) Who & what?

(Hare, 2003)
- Commonly used to ASSESS the - presence of psychopathy in individuals.
- Behaviours & personality traits
- conducted during interview

2 primary factors:
Factor 1: interpersonal and affective traits
• selfish, callous and remorseless use of others

Factor 2: impulsive, antisocial behaviours
• chronically unstable, antisocial and socially deviant lifestyle


Psychopathy checklist-R (PC-R) Evaluation (2)

- Widely described as the gold standard for measuring psychopathy; high interrater reliability from well-trained raters (McDermott et al. 2000) = this means that in the criminal justice systems view of it is rarely questioned
- the reliability in criminal/forensic settings is very poor
a) Boccaccini et al. (2009) - subjective inference & a pull to affiliate with their party in criminal settings

b) Skeen & Cooke, 2010 -- scores on PCL are too heavily impacted by a focus on prior criminal behaviour
> some argue that part of psychopathy is the emergence of an early and persistent pattern of problematic behaviours” BUT some argue that criminal behaviour is something that is neither diagnostic to psychopathy OR specific to personality deviation (Cooke + Michie, 2001)
> BUT without a past of criminal behaviour -- unlikely to pass threshold for psychopathy

**Hare & Neumann (2010) seemed to agree with key points that the PCL-R should not be confused with psychopathy and that criminal behavior is not central to psychopathy


Empathy WHAT/ tasks/VIM

- cognitive/ affective
- psychopathology = score low on both of these
- facial affect tasks -> help us tap into the affective nature of those in the dark triad

- Violence inhibition mechanism: in understanding this distress in others, it prevents us from attacking them.
a) VIM comprises at least two stages of affect perception (including empathy) and motor extinction
b) Dysfunction of this system is implicated in the development of psychopathy, and reflected through callous, unemotional, and uncaring (CU) traits

c) Psychopaths = don’t experience this in the same way; structurally and functionally different.
- Amygdala and OFC involved in responding to facial expressions in monkeys and humans (reduced in psychopathy)


Brain regions underlying these traits & violent behaviour overview

- Limbic system (amygdala)
- Frontal cortex


Reactive aggression & brain regions

RA + amygdala activation (2)

1) Coccaro et al., 2007
- intermittent explosive disorder - characterised by rage
- shown faces of different emotions looked @ amygdala
- higher activation in the amygdala vs controls in response to angry faces (THREAT detection) ALSO communication with the ofc was abberant

2) Blair (2010)
- Reactive aggression need not be maladaptive—it may be an appropriate response to the level of threat/frustration.
BUT due to atypical amygdala-hypothalamus-PAG threat system and impaired frontal regulation --> threatening/frustrating provocation will be disproportionately strong --> RA


Reactive aggression & brain regions

RA + Frontal cortex (2)

Reidy et al. (2011) -
a) Some have suggested that individuals who frequently demonstrate reactive aggression show pronounced deficits in frontocortical functioning. Consistent with this finding, patients with lesions to the OFC, medial frontal cortex, or ACC exhibit more acts of reactive aggression than do other patients (Blair, 2004)

THIS MAY BE DUE TO EF DEFICITS -> - Neuroimaging and lesion studies have indicated that PFC functioning is integral to EF skills. In particular cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control (Barbey et al. 2016)

- "put the breaks on" view vmPFC puts breaks on the AHP pathway (Diekhof et al. 2011)
BUT it also may be: vmPFC provides information on potential rewards and costs of future actions, so that optimal response choice can occur -- decision making (Roesch 2005)


Reactive aggression & brain regions

RA + PAG (3)

Blair (2016)
- circuit: amygdala - hypothalamus - PAG (when actvated to high degree = RA)

(Kincheski et al., 2012).
dorsal PAG supports fear learning
- Suggesting a v high level of PAG activation in reactive aggression & lack of us-cs association (abnormal fear learning) = more subsequent anxiety **

(Lovik, 2000)
- Electrical or chemical (glutamate) stimulation of PAG results in defensive aggressive behaviour (hissing etc)// Lesions to PAG reduce defensive aggressive reactions

- The clinical and psychopharmacological profile of panic disorder in human patients shows a remarkable similarity to the defensive behavioral response evoked in experimental animals by activation of neurons in the dorsal part of the midbrain periaqueductal gray matter (PAG).

Supported by human studies (e.g. Tumors/ damage to hypothalamic-PAG axis changes aggressive behaviour; see Thomas and Siegal, 2001).


instrumental aggression
Amygdala & prefrotnal cortex

- underactivation of the amygdala = fails to signal the full value of aversive stimuli // only in the right amygdala though (Poeppl et al. 2017) (MA)

- Functional connectivity (ucinate fasciculus) between the amygdala & OFC & vmPFC, is weaker in psychopathic offenders AND individuals with antisocial personality disorder (Sundram et al. 2012) & in boys with psychopathic traits (Finger et al. 2011) -- social and emotional deficits from aberrant connectivity

- Psychopaths = no activation of this network during fear conditioning like controls do


frontal cortex & psychopathy

1) Reward circuitry may be affected in psychopathy: Coenen et al. 2011).
a) damage in the connections of the reward system (VTA and NA)
b) retain activity in the striatum when reward not satisfied ----> this over activation may result in the inability to flexibly use contextual information to terminate certain aggressive behaviours (impulsivity seen in some psychopaths)


PAG and lateral hypothalamus proactive aggression

Tulogdi et al. (2015)
- aggressive encounters increase the activation of the lateral hypothalamus
- lateral hypothalamus correlated w predatory like attacks


models for both aggressions

amygdala --> hypothalamus --> PAG --> frontal cortex


amydala --> hypothalamus --> lateral hypothalamus --> frontal cortex


Executive functioning in reactive aggression

Thomson + Centifanti (2017)
- Children who displayed executive function deficits were more likely to be in the reactive aggression group
*** Cognitive flexibility did not differentiate the reactive group from the mixed or low group SOO ability to shift attention between mental states not a core deficit but the deficit = its the deficits in inhibitory control and planning

a) preadolescent sample pubertal timing was not accounted for, which has been shown to be associated with externalising behaviors (Dimler 2015)

b) used TD with tendencies = are the findings applicable to people with more serious levels of aggressive behaviour??

a) Zhang et al. (2017) = used 20 year old sample (post pube) in a GONOGO TASK = found inhibitory problems in inmates with reactive aggression but not with instrumental aggression

b) YES (Barkataki et al. (2005) Violent individuals with SZ demonstrated poorer performance than their nonviolent schizophrenia peers on a measure of executive function

Kumari et al. (2009)
- ASPD + SZ criminals & controls
- small electric shock + told them that if they saw shock sign they’ll get another// safe sign (threat/fear)
- thalamus activation
**hyPO in ASPD
***hypER in SZ due to stronger threat conditioning in SZ– more aroused by the threat cues = heightened arousal)
- THIS heightened arousal will interfere with higher level cognitive processing seen in reactive aggression


Executive functioning in proactive aggression

1) Psychopathic traits have been less consistently associated with executive control/disinhibition (Morgan and Lilienfeld, 2000).
2) PA associated with better response inhibition Zhang et al. (2017)

3) PA not associated with (Latzman et al., 2011) lower levels of self-control, BUT this finding is not clear, as impulsivity-related psychopathic personality traits have been found to be associated with PA (Hecht et al., 2016).
a) concurrent w Thomas & Centifanti (2017) - mixed group (PA + RA) - showed reactive aggression (no self regulation) BUT they also measured EF + this group had intact EF. SO they said it might be due to a shared implusivity trait of the two.
b) BUT when looked @ separately informants rate PA children lower on impulsivity than RA children (Dodge et al., 1997) = MORE ABLE TO CONTROL AND CHANNEL THEIR IMPULSIVITY (Dodge et al. 2006)

***ALSO due to the fact that Secondary Psychopathy (more prone to guilt), but not Primary Psychopathy, is Associated with impulsivity (Glaser, 2013)****Not distinguished often

4) Hecht & Latzman (2018)
- Looked @ EF as a multidimensional construct
- the component that was most relevant to instrumental aggression = ability to monitor incoming new information
- This is consistent with research indicating that antisocial behaviors requiring increased levels of planning and premeditation are associated with higher levels of EF, particularly monitoring- and conceptual-flexibility-related abilities (Barker et al., 2007).

Weidacker - ‎2017
5) parametric Go/No-go task in male offenders (n77) --> TREATED PSYCHOPATHOLOGY AS DIMESNIONAL rather than categorical construct
b) Positive relationship found between inhibitory ability & interpersonal aspects (superficial charm/inflated self worth/lack of guilt/lack of empathy etcetc)
c) Negative relationship found between inhibitory ability and lifestyle characteristics (lack of long term goals/impulsivity/irresponsibility)


aggression and language abilities

Arsenio et al. 2009

- There is a small but convincing body of literature linking reactive, but not proactive, aggression to low verbal intelligence and executive functioning deficits

- In fact, proactive aggression has been found to be associated with high levels of verbal intelligence + & RA perform worse academically (due to these EF probs?) (Fite et al. 2013)

Miller (2008)
- hypoactivation of ACC and OFC regions of the medial prefrontal cortex may not only reflect defective capacity to modulate amygdala but also reflect decreased connectivity with more lateral cortical language processing regions.

- Language processing regions may mediate executive abilities important to the regulation of aggressive impulses, such as deductive reasoning, cognitive restraint of aggression (that may be separable from motoric inhibition of aggression), cognitive modulation of emotion, and/or reflective functioning.

SO activation of language processing regions of the brain may be critical to dampen limbic mediators of impulsive aggression via the ACC and OFC under normal conditions. Abnormalities leading to deficient, nonintegrative prefrontal cortical processing may lead to misperceptions that trigger defensive rage as well as deficient modulation of its expression.


testing ex functioning in pro/reactive aggression overview

a) Iowa Gambling = ex functioning lecture
b) Go/NoGo and Stop tasks


Go/NoGo and Stop tasks what?

Ex fucntioning in aggression
- press button when targets appear but withhold response when they dont (i.e. distractors)
- on GNG task the no-go sign is presented simultaneously with or instead of the go stimulus BUT on SST the stop-signal is presented after the go stimulus, so that the response is already in the process of completion


Go/NoGo and Stop tasks EVAL

1) Littman & Takacas (2017)
- go/no go vs stop tasks normally used indiscriminately
- BUT they actually measure two types of inhibitory functioning
- Not all inhibitory control mechanisms act the same = need for research to separate it up

2) comorbid ADHD; perform badly on these tasks

3) too simple = ceiling effects // lack of ecological validity (Mulligan et al., 2014)

4) There is a difference between motor impulsivity (the inability to inhibit automatic responding) and cognitive impulsivity (the absence of planning) Weidacker et al. (2017)
a. This distinction is important given that previous research into psychopathy has revealed a consistent pattern of results when assessing cognitive impulsivity (Bechara et al., 2000), but evidence for enhanced motor impulsiveness in psychopathy is weaker (Verona et al., 2012)

******* Whether or not psychopathic participants express a deficit in cognitive impulsivity, as indexed by the delay of gratification paradigm, has been shown to be dependent on additional personality traits = more willing to delay gratification if they have lower levels of trait anxiety


Facial Affect Stop-Go Task (FAST) – Fido et al. (2017)

**One way we can tap objectively into empathy etc is facial expression (social cues)
A) Tried to tap into violence inhibition mechanism (i.e. when people stop hurting someone when they display signs of fear)
B) Idea: number of faces + if you see an angry face you need to respond but if its changed to sadness you need to change your response and press another button
Found: uncaring traits has worse face processing & the later executive ability (to stop self-attacking the person) is frontal/executive involved. Reactive aggression linked with dysfunction of frontal lobe.


Left vs Right amygdala & the different aggressions

Left vs right amygdala:
- Activation was higher in the left amygdala in IED (reactive aggression) (Coccaro et al., 2007)
- BUT activation was lower in the right amygdala in individuals with psychopathy (Poeppl et al. 2017)

Why? (Wang et al. 2017)

a) Left amygdala is more involved in EXPRESSION of antisocial or aggressive behaviours in response to fearful faces (i.e. theyre scared of something i should be too) (fear faces = salient threat and distress cues) (higher threat = more reacitve aggression in IED)

b) Right amygdala is more related to anger and fear processing

SO would expect psychopaths to have lower activation in the right amygdala vs reactive aggression b/c they have less fear processing ability --> MIGHT EXPLAIN WHY THEY DO
Left amygdala is associated with anger expression SO would expect reactive aggression to have higher activity cos they are more likely to express their anger


what is the consequence of aberrant connective between the ofc and amygdala in reactive and proactive aggression

Proactive = emotional detachment/ loss of fear response. ALSO in secondary psychopathy = implusivity (Craig, 2009)

Reactive = doesnt decrease the amygdala's response to threat (Coccaro, 2007)