Biological Approach - The Role of the Brain in Aggression

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  • The Brain and Aggression
    • The Prefrontal Cortex
      • The prefrontal cortex is believed to be involved in regulating emotions; so aggression may be a result of a lack of regulation.
      • Bechara and Van Der Linden (2005) found that the area (prefrontal cortex) is involved in regulating behaviour and deferring rewards/ planning.
      • If the prefrontal cortex is damaged then the person may only focus of the present (blinded by rage) and not be able to plan long term, this would mean they would want immediate rewards.
        • For example, when someone is 'blinded' by rage.
      • Therefore, damage to the prefrontal cortex may mean the person cannot control their aggresse reactions.
      • Raine et al (1997) found that a group of murderers had low activity in the prefrontal cortex.
      • Phineas Gage survived after an accident that damaged his prefrontal cortex, changing his personality.
        • He became very irresponsible and aggressive.
    • The Amygdala
      • The amygdala is found in the limbic system in the centre of the brain.
      • The amygdala has been linked to recognising emotion, creating emotional responses and aggression.
      • In animal studies it has been found that the amygdala is stimulated with an electrical current then the animals shows aggression..
        • It has been shown that if the amygdala is removed from an animal they  become passive and unresponsive.
          • These animals also did not respond to fear so the amygdala seems to be important in identifying threats and responding to them.
        • Swantje et al (2012) found that those that had a higher 'lifetime aggression' score had a lower amygdala volume.
    • The Hypothalamus
      • The hypothalamus is found in the limbic system in the centre of the brain.
      • The hypothalamus is involved in homeostasis.
        • It maintains homeostasis through the regulation of hormones.
          • One of the hormones it regulates is testosterone which has been linked to aggression, particularly in males.
      • The hypothalamus regulates a range of behaviours including hunger, thirst, and response to pain, anger and aggression.
  • As technology advanced 'mapping out' the brain has become easier as scans can now be used as well as lesion studies to understand the link between a brain area and behaviour, aggression.


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