Personality traits predict brain activation and connectivity when witnessing a violent conflict

Van den Stock, J., Hortensius, R. , Sinke, C., Goebel, R. and de Gelder, B. (2015) Personality traits predict brain activation and connectivity when witnessing a violent conflict. Scientific Reports, 5, 13779. (doi: 10.1038/srep13779) (PMID:26337369) (PMCID:PMC4559660)

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As observers we excel in decoding the emotional signals telling us that a social interaction is turning violent. The neural substrate and its modulation by personality traits remain ill understood. We performed an fMRI experiment in which participants watched videos displaying a violent conflict between two people. Observers’ attention was directed to either the aggressor or the victim. Focusing on the aggressor (vs. focusing on the victim) activated the superior temporal sulcus (STS), extra-striate body area (EBA), occipital poles and centro-medial amygdala (CMA). Stronger instantaneous connectivity occurred between these and the EBA, insula and the red nucleus. When focusing on the victim, basolateral amygdala (BLA) activation was related to trait empathy and showed increased connectivity with the insula and red nucleus. STS activation was associated with trait aggression and increased connectivity with the hypothalamus. The findings reveal that focusing on the aggressor of a violent conflict triggers more activation in categorical (EBA) and emotion (CMA, STS) areas. This is associated with increased instantaneous connectivity among emotion areas (CMA-insula) and between categorical and emotion (EBA-STS) areas. When the focus is on the victim, personality traits (aggression/empathy) modulate activity in emotion areas (respectively STS and postcentral gyrus/ BLA), along with connectivity in the emotional diencephalon (hypothalamus) and early visual areas (occipital pole).

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was supported by Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen (FWO) (grant number and Foundation for Alzheimer Research (SAO-FRA P#14013) to J.V.d.S. J.V.d.S. is a post-doctoral research fellow of FWO-Vlaanderen. This work was also supported by the project TANGO. B.d.G. and R.H. were partly funded by the project TANGO. The project TANGO acknowledges the financial support of the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme within the Seventh Framework Programme for Research of the European Commission, under FET- Open grant number: 249858. B.d.G. has also received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Frame- work Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement number 295673.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hortensius, Dr Ruud
Authors: Van den Stock, J., Hortensius, R., Sinke, C., Goebel, R., and de Gelder, B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Scientific Reports
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN (Online):2045-2322
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First published in Scientific Reports 5:13779
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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