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Psychiatry Res. 2013 Jan 30;211(1):24-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2012.10.010.

Dorsal/ventral parcellation of the amygdala: relevance to impulsivity and aggression.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Investigations into the specific association of amygdala volume, a critical aspect of the fronto-limbic emotional circuitry, and aggression have produced results broadly consistent with the 'larger is more powerful' doctrine. However, recent reports suggest that the ventral and dorsal aspects of the amygdala play functionally specific roles, respectively, in the activation and control of behavior. Therefore, parceling amygdala volume into dorsal and ventral components might prove productive in testing hypotheses regarding volumetric association to aggression, and impulsivity, a related aspect of self-control. We sought to test this hypothesis in a group of 41 psychiatric patients who received standard magnetic resonance imaging and a psychometric protocol including aggression and impulsivity measures. Whole amygdala volumes were not associated with aggression or impulsivity, but significant correlations were found when dorsal/ventral amygdalae were analyzed separately. Specifically, left and right ventral amygdala volume was positively associated with motor impulsivity, and left dorsal amygdala was negatively associated with aggression. Results are discussed in terms of an activation and control model of brain-behavior relations. Potential relevance to the continuum of amygdala hyper- to hypo-activation and aggression is discussed.

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