Resting-state Functional Connectivity in Combat Veterans Suffering From Impulsive Aggression

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2017 Dec 1;12(12):1881-1889. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsx113.


Impulsive aggression is common among military personnel after deployment and may arise because of impaired top-down regulation of the amygdala by prefrontal regions. This study sought to further explore this hypothesis via resting-state functional connectivity analyses in impulsively aggressive combat veterans. Male combat veterans with (n = 28) and without (n = 30) impulsive aggression problems underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Functional connectivity analyses were conducted with the following seed-regions: basolateral amygdala (BLA), centromedial amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and anterior insular cortex (AIC). Regions-of-interest analyses focused on the orbitofrontal cortex and periaqueductal gray, and yielded no significant results. In exploratory cluster analyses, we observed reduced functional connectivity between the (bilateral) BLA and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the impulsive aggression group, relative to combat controls. This finding indicates that combat-related impulsive aggression may be marked by weakened functional connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal regions, already in the absence of explicit emotional stimuli. Group differences in functional connectivity were also observed between the (bilateral) ACC and left cuneus, which may be related to heightened vigilance to potentially threatening visual cues, as well as between the left AIC and right temporal pole, possibly related to negative memory association in impulsive aggression.

Keywords: DLPFC; amygdala; functional connectivity; impulsive aggression; neuroimaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rest
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Young Adult