Brain regions influencing implicit violent attitudes: A lesion-mapping study

Irene Cristofori, Wanting Zhong, Valerie Mandoske, Aileen Chau, Frank Krueger, Maren Strenziok, Jordan Grafman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Increased aggression is common after traumatic brain injuries and may persist after cognitive recovery. Maladaptive aggression and violence are associated with dysfunction in the prefrontal and temporal cortex, but such dysfunctional behaviors are typically measured by explicit scales and history. However, it is well known that answers on explicit scales on sensitive topics—such as aggressive thoughts and behaviors—may not reveal true tendencies. Here, we investigated the neural basis of implicit attitudes toward aggression in humans using a modified version of the Implicit Association Task (IAT) with a unique sample of 112 Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating brain injury and 33 healthy controls who also served in combat in Vietnam but had no history of brain injury. We hypothesized that dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) lesions, due to the crucial role of the dlPFC in response inhibition, could influence performance on the IAT. In addition, we investigated the causal contribution of specific brain areas to implicit attitudes toward violence. Wefound amorepositive implicit attitude toward aggressionamongindividuals with lesions to the dlPFC and inferior posterior temporal cortex (ipTC). Furthermore, executive functions were critically involved in regulating implicit attitudes toward violence and aggression. Our findings complement existing evidence on the neural basis of explicit aggression centered on the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These findings highlight that dlPFC and ipTC play a causal role in modulating implicit attitudes about violence and are crucially involved in the pathogenesis of aggressive behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2757-2768
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 2 2016


  • Aggression
  • Implicit attitudes
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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