Neurobiological responses towards stimuli depicting aggressive interactions in delinquent young adults and controls: No relation to reactive and proactive aggression

Annemieke Ter Harmsel*, Josanne D.M. van Dongen, Josjan Zijlmans, Thimo M. van der Pol, Reshmi Marhe, Arne Popma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Neurobiological measures underlying aggressive behavior have gained attention due to their potential to inform risk assessment and treatment interventions. Aberrations in responsivity of the autonomic nervous system and electrophysiological responses to arousal-inducing stimuli have been related to emotional dysregulation and aggressive behavior. However, studies have often been performed in community samples, using tasks that induce arousal but not specifically depict aggression. In this study, we examined differences in psychophysiological (i.e., heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, skin conductance level) and electrophysiological responses (i.e., P3, late positive potential, mu suppression) to aggressive versus neutral scenes in a sample of 118 delinquent young adults and 25 controls (all male, aged 18–27). With respect to group differences, we only found significant higher SCL reactivity during the task in the delinquent group compared to controls, but this was irrespective of condition (aggressive and neutral interactions). Within the delinquent group, we also examined associations between the neurobiological measures and reactive and proactive aggression. No significant associations were found. Therefore, although we found some indication of emotional dysregulation in these delinquent young adults, future studies should further elucidate the neurobiological mechanisms underlying emotional dysregulation in relation to different types of aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research project was funded by De Verre Bergen Foundation. De Verre Bergen Foundation is a venture philanthropy organization that aims to build a better Rotterdam through substantial investments in innovative, impactful social ventures. The financer was not involved in the design of the study, the drafting of the manuscript or the process of data collection, analysis and interpretation. Contact information: Stichting de Verre Bergen, Parklaan 22, 3016 BB Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Tel.: +31-10-209-2000; email:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


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