Mid-latency evoked potentials in self-reported impulsive aggression

Rebecca J. Houston, Matthew S. Stanford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The present study was conducted to examine psychophysiological differences in arousability among individuals who display impulsive aggressive outbursts. Amplitude and latency for the mid-latency evoked potentials (P1, N1 and P2) were obtained at scalp electrode sites. The evoking stimuli were three intensities (low, medium, high) of photic stimulation. Compared to non-aggressive controls, impulsive aggressive subjects showed significantly reduced P1 amplitude, which is indicative of an inefficient sensory gating mechanism. In addition, these subjects exhibited significantly larger N1 amplitude implying an enhanced orienting of attention to stimuli. Impulsive aggressive subjects also exhibited shorter P1, N1 and P2 peak latency. These results suggest that impulsive aggressive individuals may display quicker orienting and processing of stimuli in an attempt to compensate for low resting arousal levels. Finally, impulsive aggressive subjects augmented the P1-N1 component more frequently than controls, which is consistent with previous studies examining impulsivity and sensation seeking. Together, these findings extend previous work concerning the underlying physiology of impulsive aggression. It has been suggested that impulsive aggressive individuals may attempt to compensate for low resting arousal levels by engaging in stimulus seeking behaviors. Accordingly, the present findings imply similar physiological compensatory responses as demonstrated by heightened orienting of attention, processing and arousability. In addition, a compromised sensory gating system in impulsive aggressors may exacerbate such circumstances, and lead to later cognitive processing deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 6 2001


  • Aggression
  • Arousal
  • Attention
  • Augmenting/reducing
  • Evoked potentials
  • N1
  • P1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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