In this R21 application, we propose to build on work with recently developed Social-Emotional Information processing (SEIP) visual stimuli. These stimuli are composed of short video clips based on written SEIP vignettes that have already been shown to have excellent psychometric properties. We propose to develop and refine an fMRI protocol to examine neural networks related to the various aspects of SEIP. These relate to viewing (encoding), hostile attribution, and negative emotional response. The first group of subjects will include healthy volunteer subjects. The second group of subjects will include individuals with prominent histories of recurrent, problematic, impulsive aggression (Intermittent Explosive Disorder: IED). The fMRI-SEIP protocol will define the neural networks involved in the different aspects of SEIP in healthy volunteers. Then the fMRI protocol will be studied in subjects with histories of recurrent, problematic, impulsive aggression (IED). We hypothesize that: a) during the "Viewing Phase", increased fMRI BOLD signal response will be observed in brain regions associated with cognitive appraisal (DLPFC, OFC, PHG) and affective reaction (AMYG, ACC, INS), b) during the "Attribution Phase", increased fMRI BOLD signal response will be observed in brain regions associated with cognitive appraisal (DLPFC, OFC, PHG, PCN), c) during the "Negative Emotional Response Phase", increased fMRI BOLD signal response will be observed in brain regions associated with affective reaction (AMYG, ACC, INS) and that, d) scores of "Hostile Attribution" and of "Negative Emotional Response" (which both connote the extent of provoked anger/hostility/negative affect) scores will correlate with activation of AMYG, ACC, OFC, and INS. Finally, we hypothesize that, compared with Healthy Control subjects, impulsive aggressive subjects (IED) will demonstrate reduced brain activation during the Attribution (cognitive appraisal) in DLPFC, OFC, PHG, and PCN and heightened brain activation during the "Negative Emotional Response" (affective reaction) in AMYG, ACC, INS.
Recurrent, impulsive aggressive behavior poses a significant concern for our society both from the viewpoint of the individual who engages in these behaviors and of the people and property that these behaviors target. Impulsive aggressive individuals have been shown to respond to social stimuli differently than non-aggressive individuals and this may be a key factor in determining whether or not aggressive actions ensue in social situations. This work will use video vignettes depicting socially ambiguous situations to examine central processes involved in social/emotional information processing and is expected to yield important insights into neuronal mechanisms that underlie aberrant social and emotional information processing in individuals with problematic impulsive aggressive behavior.