Neural correlates of hate

PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003556. Epub 2008 Oct 29.


In this work, we address an important but unexplored topic, namely the neural correlates of hate. In a block-design fMRI study, we scanned 17 normal human subjects while they viewed the face of a person they hated and also faces of acquaintances for whom they had neutral feelings. A hate score was obtained for the object of hate for each subject and this was used as a covariate in a between-subject random effects analysis. Viewing a hated face resulted in increased activity in the medial frontal gyrus, right putamen, bilaterally in premotor cortex, in the frontal pole and bilaterally in the medial insula. We also found three areas where activation correlated linearly with the declared level of hatred, the right insula, right premotor cortex and the right fronto-medial gyrus. One area of deactivation was found in the right superior frontal gyrus. The study thus shows that there is a unique pattern of activity in the brain in the context of hate. Though distinct from the pattern of activity that correlates with romantic love, this pattern nevertheless shares two areas with the latter, namely the putamen and the insula.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Face / physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Hate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods