Affective and Regulatory Processes Underpinning Reactive Aggression in Adolescence

Adolescence is a key time for the emergence of internalising and externalising psychopathologies including depression, anxiety and antisocial behaviour. What are the behavioural and neural processes that render some adolescents more vulnerable to developing psychopathology than others? I will present behavioural and neuroimaging data focusing on reactivity to and regulation of emotional responses, both through automatic processing of emotional cues, and deliberate use of regulatory strategies. In particular I will focus on those adolescents with a profile of reactive aggression, i.e. aggression in response to threat, frustration or provocation, and will show that this group is characterised by a profile of high amygdala reactivity to threat, increased ‘capture’ by emotional stimuli, and a reduced ability to use deliberate strategies to down regulate emotional response. Thus, these individuals have difficulty in terms of both ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ approaches to managing emotions, and may benefit from interventions specifically targeting these skills.