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Original Research

Hyperresponsivity to Threat Stimuli in Domestic Violence Offenders: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

Tatia M. C. Lee, Siu-Ching Chan, and Adrian Raine

Published: January 13, 2009

Article Abstract

Objective: While spouse abuse research has almost exclusively adopted a social perspective, an increasing body of imaging research is documenting neural contributions to violence.

Method: To test the hypothesis that wife batterers are hyperresponsive to threatening stimuli, echo-planar functional magnetic resonance imaging was employed to assess brain function of 10 male batterers and 13 male matched controls during viewing of 4 types of visual stimuli: neutral, positive affect, aggressive-threat, and aggression against women. The study was conducted from September 2005 to August 2006.

Results: Compared to controls, batterers showed significantly higher neural hyperresponsivity to the threat stimuli in the hippocampus, fusiform gyrus, posterior cingulate gyrus, thalamus, and occipital cortex (p

Conclusion: Findings indicate an affect-processing abnormality in wife batterers and suggest that hypersensitivity to mildly threatening affective provocations by their spouses may represent a neurobiological predisposition to spouse abuse in some men.

Volume: 70

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