EEG and brainstem auditory evoked response potentials in adult male drug abusers with self-reported histories of aggressive behavior

Biol Psychiatry. 1989 Oct;26(6):595-611. doi: 10.1016/0006-3223(89)90085-1.


Auditory brainstem evoked response (BAER) and spontaneous electroencephalogram (EEG) were measured in 124 adult male drug abusers. We examined the relationships among psychiatric diagnoses, paper and pencil measures of aggression and hostility, and electrophysiological features. Subjects meeting criteria for antisocial personality disorder (ASP), as defined by DSM-III, were not significantly different from non-ASP subjects for either BAER or spontaneous EEG measures. The more overtly aggressive subjects had significant delays in BAER latency. Aggressive subjects also had more delta activity and less alpha activity in the spontaneous EEG, as have been observed in "psychopaths" and "criminals." Although ASP and aggression are related, these data indicate that aggressiveness may be a separate, albeit overlapping, trait. As both early aggression and a diagnosis of ASP are predictors of later drug use, the findings that only aggression was associated with EEG slowing and brainstem delays may indicate that ASP and aggression make independent contributions to vulnerability to the development of drug abuse.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Arousal / drug effects*
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • MMPI
  • Male
  • Psychotropic Drugs*
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Psychotropic Drugs