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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Aug 12;363(1503):2543-55. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0028.

Psychophysiological correlates of aggression and violence: an integrative review.

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Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Elliott Hall, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


This paper reviews existing psychophysiological studies of aggression and violent behaviour including research employing autonomic, electrocortical and neuroimaging measures. Robust physiological correlates of persistent aggressive behaviour evident in this literature include low baseline heart rate, enhanced autonomic reactivity to stressful or aversive stimuli, enhanced EEG slow wave activity, reduced P300 brain potential response and indications from structural and functional neuroimaging studies of dysfunction in frontocortical and limbic brain regions that mediate emotional processing and regulation. The findings are interpreted within a conceptual framework that draws on two integrative models in the literature. The first is a recently developed hierarchical model of impulse control (externalizing) problems, in which various disinhibitory syndromes including aggressive and addictive behaviours of different kinds are seen as arising from common as well as distinctive aetiologic factors. This model represents an approach to organizing these various interrelated phenotypes and investigating their common and distinctive aetiologic substrates. The other is a neurobiological model that posits impairments in affective regulatory circuits in the brain as a key mechanism for impulsive aggressive behaviour. This model provides a perspective for integrating findings from studies employing different measures that have implicated varying brain structures and physiological systems in violent and aggressive behaviour.

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