The neurobiology of aggression: implications for the pharmacotherapy of aggressive challenging behaviour by people with intellectual disabilities

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Abstract

Aim

The aim of this review is to summarise current understanding of the neurobiology of aggression and within this context to consider the evidence base for the pharmacotherapy of aggressive challenging behaviour by people with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Evidence

Aggressive encounters involve a variety of psychological processes and progress has been made in understanding the brain mechanisms involved. However, the role in aggression of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and γ-aminobutyric acid is no longer as clear as it once appeared, with the result that predictions cannot be made with confidence about drug effects on aggression. There have been relatively few controlled trials of pharmacotherapy for aggression in people with ID, or, indeed, in the general population, and their outcomes have largely been negative.

Conclusion

With the possible exception of risperidone, there is no reliable evidence that antidepressant, neuroleptic or anticonvulsant drugs are effective treatments for aggression by people with ID.

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