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Scientifica  2012 

Neuroimaging and Neurocognitive Correlates of Aggression and Violence in Schizophrenia

DOI: 10.6064/2012/158646

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Abstract:

Individuals diagnosed with major mental disorders such as schizophrenia are more likely to have engaged in violent behavior than mentally healthy members of the same communities. Although aggressive acts can have numerous causes, research about the underlying neurobiology of violence and aggression in schizophrenia can lead to a better understanding of the heterogeneous nature of that behavior and can assist in developing new treatment strategies. The purpose of this paper is to review the recent literature and discuss some of the neurobiological correlates of aggression and violence. The focus will be on schizophrenia, and the results of neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies that have directly investigated brain functioning and/or structure in aggressive and violent samples will be discussed as well as other domains that might predispose to aggression and violence such as deficits in responding to the emotional expressions of others, impulsivity, and psychopathological symptoms. Finally gender differences regarding aggression and violence are discussed. In this context several methodological and conceptional issues that limited the comparison of these studies will be addressed. 1. Introduction Aggression and violence are declared as leading public health problems and therefore violence in the community has obvious social relevance for political, criminal justice, and health care systems [1]. Epidemiological studies have shown that individuals diagnosed with major mental disorders such as schizophrenia are more likely to be engaged in violent behavior than the general population [2–6]. However, violence committed by persons with schizophrenia is a heterogeneous phenomenon. It is unquestionable that societal influences, such as poverty, discrimination, exposure to violence, and physical abuse, play a key role in the genesis of violence. For example, individuals who are abused as children have increased levels of violence in adulthood [7, 8]. Furthermore, in a recent meta-analysis, Fazel et al. [3] could show that most of the risk for violence appears to be mediated by substance abuse comorbidity. Although aggressive acts can have numerous causes, research about the underlying neurobiology of violence and aggression in schizophrenia can lead to a better understanding of the heterogeneous nature of that behavior and can assist in developing new treatment strategies. In response, a large number of studies have been published to determine the roots of violence and aggression, but the underlying neurobiology is only just beginning to be understood. The

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