In a recent study, researchers found that low dopamine levels are linked to higher levels of aggression. At BIPR, clinicians help with a variety of issues including aggression, trauma, sexual and physical abuse, depression, and anxiety. More research in this field could lead to new treatments, both therapeutic and chemical, for aggression.
Researchers discovered this link using the point subtraction aggression paradigm, a psychological behavioral task. Healthy adults played a computer game supposedly to earn money, and when told that there was someone in another room that could cheat and steal their winnings, they had three options: to punish the person, defend themselves, or continue trying to earn money. This revealed a participant’s aggressive response in competitive situations, or what the lead author of the study calls “goal-directed aggression”, reflecting the link between aggression and the dopaminergic reward system. While participants played the game, their brains were imaged and a biomarker showed the uptake of dopamine into the brain. Dopamine synthesis in parts of the brain associated with motivation, planning, and executive function had a significant impact on aggression levels, and higher dopamine levels were correlated with lower aggression. It seemed that if participants had higher dopamine uptake, they were more focused on the reward of winning money than revenge on the cheating opponent. This research could provide insight into ways to reduce aggressive responses, but in future research, scientists will have to examine this connection in situations where the subject could profit from aggressive behavior with no alternative choices.
To learn more about this study, read the article at the link below!