19 June 2017

Anger in the fMRI scanner: are violent offenders angrier than other people?

On Thursday 15 June, the leading scientific journal Scientific Reports published the article Anger provocation in violent offenders leads to emotion dysregulation based on the PhD study conducted by Franca Tonnaer, which was carried out under the supervision of Arnoud Arntz and Maaike Cima at Maastricht University's Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. The study was conducted in collaboration with De Rooyse Wissel, a forensic psychiatry centre in Oostrum. Franca Tonnaer wanted to investigate why people without a history of violence are capable of controlling their anger and why violent offenders are not. As part of her study, she compared the brain responses of violent offenders and non-offenders with the help of fMRI anger provocation and regulation tasks. Interestingly, the brain responses showed that the violent offenders from the forensic psychiatric centre were constantly being triggered to regulate their anger, but that the relevant part of the brain failed them when anger regulation was actually necessary. This is a new and important insight for the treatment of violent offenders.