Neural mechanisms of aggression

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2007 Jul;8(7):536-46. doi: 10.1038/nrn2174.


Unchecked aggression and violence exact a significant toll on human societies. Aggression is an umbrella term for behaviours that are intended to inflict harm. These behaviours evolved as adaptations to deal with competition, but when expressed out of context, they can have destructive consequences. Uncontrolled aggression has several components, such as impaired recognition of social cues and enhanced impulsivity. Molecular approaches to the study of aggression have revealed biological signals that mediate the components of aggressive behaviour. These signals may provide targets for therapeutic intervention for individuals with extreme aggressive outbursts. This Review summarizes the complex interactions between genes, biological signals, neural circuits and the environment that influence the development and expression of aggressive behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Anger*
  • Animals
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism
  • Brain Chemistry / genetics*
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / genetics
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / metabolism
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / anatomy & histology
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / genetics
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / metabolism
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Personality Disorders / genetics
  • Personality Disorders / metabolism
  • Personality Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Biogenic Monoamines