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Psychiatry Res. 2009 Jul 15;173(1):39-44. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2008.09.003. Epub 2009 May 12.

Dysfunctional, but not functional, impulsivity is associated with a history of seriously violent behaviour and reduced orbitofrontal and hippocampal volumes in schizophrenia.

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Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK.


Aggression and violent acts have been linked with impulsive responding. We investigated whether impulsive personality trait, especially suggestive of dysfunctional impulsivity (i.e. fast and inaccurate responding where this is non-optimal), is associated with a history of seriously violent behaviour and specific brain deficits in schizophrenia. Twenty-four male participants with schizophrenia, of whom 10 had a history of serious physical violence, and 14 healthy male participants were assessed on impulsiveness (dysfunctional impulsivity), venturesomeness (functional impulsivity), and empathy. All participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging. The results revealed that participants with schizophrenia and a history of violence showed elevated impulsiveness but had comparable scores on venturesomeness and empathy dimensions. Impulsiveness scores correlated negatively with reduced orbitofrontal grey matter volume in both the patient and healthy control groups, and with hippocampal volume in the patient group. Our findings suggest that dysfunctional, but not functional, impulsivity is elevated in patients with schizophrenia with a propensity for repetitive violence, and this in turn appears to be associated with reduce volumes of both the orbitofrontal cortex grey matter and the hippocampus. Violence risk prediction and management strategies in schizophrenia may benefit from including specific measures of dysfunctional impulsive traits.

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