The neural correlates of alcohol-related aggression

  • Thomas F. Denson
  • Kate A. Blundell
  • Timothy P. Schofield
  • Mark M. Schira
  • Ulrike M. Krämer


Alcohol intoxication is implicated in approximately half of all violent crimes. Over the past several decades, numerous theories have been proposed to account for the influence of alcohol on aggression. Nearly all of these theories imply that altered functioning in the prefrontal cortex is a proximal cause. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment, 50 healthy young men consumed either a low dose of alcohol or a placebo and completed an aggression paradigm against provocative and nonprovocative opponents. Provocation did not affect neural responses. However, relative to sober participants, during acts of aggression, intoxicated participants showed decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, caudate, and ventral striatum, but heightened activation in the hippocampus. Among intoxicated participants, but not among sober participants, aggressive behavior was positively correlated with activation in the medial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These results support theories that posit a role for prefrontal cortical dysfunction as an important factor in intoxicated aggression.


Alcohol Aggression Prefrontal cortex fMRI 

Supplementary material

13415_2017_558_MOESM1_ESM.docx (39 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 39 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas F. Denson
    • 1
  • Kate A. Blundell
    • 1
  • Timothy P. Schofield
    • 1
  • Mark M. Schira
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ulrike M. Krämer
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Neuroscience Research AustraliaRandwickAustralia
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  4. 4.Department of NeurologyUniversity of LübeckLübeckGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Psychology IIUniversity of LübeckLübeckGermany

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