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Neuroimage. 2008 Nov 15;43(3):562-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.07.045. Epub 2008 Aug 3.

Connectivity from the ventral anterior cingulate to the amygdala is modulated by appetitive motivation in response to facial signals of aggression.

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Medical Research Council, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge, CB2 7EF, UK.


For some people facial expressions of aggression are intimidating, for others they are perceived as provocative, evoking an aggressive response. Identifying the key neurobiological factors that underlie this variation is fundamental to our understanding of aggressive behaviour. The amygdala and the ventral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) have been implicated in aggression. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we studied how the interaction between these regions is influenced by the drive to obtain reward (reward-drive or appetitive motivation), a personality trait consistently associated with aggression. Two distinct techniques showed that the connectivity between the ventral ACC and the amygdala was strongly correlated with personality, with high reward-drive participants displaying reduced negative connectivity. Furthermore, the direction of this effect was restricted from ventral ACC to the amygdala but not vice versa. The personality-mediated variation in the pathway from the ventral anterior cingulate cortex to the amygdala provides an account of why signals of aggression are interpreted as provocative by some individuals more than others.

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