AQA A2 Psychology Unit 3 Aggression: The Role of Neural and Hormonal Mechanisms Notes

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A2 Psychology Aggression Unit 3: The Role of Neural and Hormonal Mechanisms Notes

What You Need To Know

Biological Explanations of Aggression:

  • The role of neural and hormonal mechanisms in aggression

The Role of Neural and Hormonal Mechanisms:

Research in the 1930s suggested the involvement of the limbic system (a set of structures deep in the brain), but most recent research has focused on the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.

Neural Mechanisms:


  • Electrical stimulation produces aggression in humans and animals.
  • Wong et al (1997) found reduced amygdala size and activity in violent criminals.


Muller et al (2003)

  • Positive and negative pictures were presented to six male psychopaths and six normal male controls.
  • At the same time, brain activity was measured using fMRI.
  • They found increased activity in several brain areas, including amygdala.
  • The exact role of the amygdala is unclear, but it seems it is part of a circuit of structures responsible for aggression, which is controlled in a top-down fashion by the prefrontal cortex.

Prefrontal cortex

  • Thought to regulate amygdala-driven emotional responses, and damage here can result in a loss of control, impulsivity, immaturity, altered emotionality.

Anderson et al (1999):

  • Damage to prefrontal cortex


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