Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Aggressiveness is highly heritable. Recent experimental work has linked individual differences in a functional polymorphism of the monoamine oxidase-A gene (MAOA) to anger-driven aggression. Other work has implicated the dorsal ACC (dACC) in cognitive-emotional control and the amygdala in emotional arousal. The present imaging genetics study investigated dACC and amygdala reactivity to induced anger control as a function of MAOA genotype. A research assistant asked 38 healthy male undergraduates to control their anger in response to an insult by a rude experimenter. Men with the low-expression allele showed increased dACC and amygdala activation after the insult, but men with the high-expression allele did not. Both dACC and amygdala activation independently mediated the relationship between MAOA genotype and self-reported anger control. Moreover, following the insult, men with the high-functioning allele showed functional decoupling between the amygdala and dACC, but men with the low-functioning allele did not. These results suggest that heightened dACC and amygdala activation and their connectivity are neuroaffective mechanisms underlying anger control in participants with the low-functioning allele of the MAOA gene.