Control your anger! The neural basis of aggression regulation in response to negative social feedback

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Abstract

Negative social feedback often generates aggressive feelings and behavior. Prior studies have investigated the neural basis of negative social feedback, but the underlying neural mechanisms of aggression regulation following negative social feedback remain largely undiscovered. In the current study, participants viewed pictures of peers with feedback (positive, neutral or negative) to the participant’s personal profile. Next, participants responded to the peer feedback by pressing a button, thereby producing a loud noise toward the peer, as an index of aggression. Behavioral analyses showed that negative feedback led to more aggression (longer noise blasts). Conjunction neuroimaging analyses revealed that both positive and negative feedback were associated with increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) and bilateral insula. In addition, more activation in the right dorsal lateral PFC (dlPFC) during negative feedback vs neutral feedback was associated with shorter noise blasts in response to negative social feedback, suggesting a potential role of dlPFC in aggression regulation, or top-down control over affective impulsive actions. This study demonstrates a role of the dlPFC in the regulation of aggressive social behavior.

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