Emotional processing and frontal asymmetry in impulsive aggressive individuals

Sarah L. Lake, Matthew S. Stanford, Jim H. Patton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Right frontal cortical activity, thought to reflect increased activity in withdrawal-related systems, has been observed in angry and anxious samples. The current study attempted to examine this effect in impulsive aggressive individuals (IAs) and nonaggressive controls. Impulsive aggression is a reactive violent response characterized by loss of behavioral control and previous physiological studies have found IAs have sensory and informational processing deficits. In Study 1, undergraduate volunteers ( n= 10 IAs, n= 14 controls) completed a resting EEG and IAs showed more right frontal cortical activity than controls at rest. In Study 2, we replicated this result with undergraduate males ( n= 15 IAs, n= 15 controls) and demonstrated that not only did IAs have more right frontal activity at rest than controls, controls were able to switch between the behavioral inhibition system (BIS) and behavioral activation system (BAS) depending on exposure to affective stimuli, whereas IAs could not. Results indicated IAs likely have an overactive BIS, and thus have difficulty recognizing emotional stimuli, suggesting a dysfunction in emotional arousal. Future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-135
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Aggressive behavior
  • Alpha asymmetry
  • Emotional control
  • Impulsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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