The roles of orbital frontal cortex in the modulation of antisocial behavior

R. J.R. Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

527 Scopus citations


This article considers potential roles of orbital frontal cortex in the modulation of antisocial behavior. Two forms of aggression are distinguished: reactive aggression elicited in response to frustration/threat and goal directed, instrumental aggression. It is suggested that orbital frontal cortex is directly involved in the modulation of reactive aggression. It is argued that orbital frontal cortex does not "inhibit" reactive aggression but rather may both increase or decrease its probability as a function of social cues present in the environment. Early dysfunction in this function of orbital frontal cortex may be linked to the development of Borderline Personality Disorder. Instrumental aggression is linked to a fundamental failure in moral socialization. However, the available data suggest that the amygdala, but not orbital frontal cortex, is required for functions such as aversive conditioning and passive avoidance learning that are necessary for moral socialization. Psychopathic individuals who present with significant instrumental aggression, are impaired in aversive conditioning and passive avoidance learning and show evidence of amygdala dysfunction. Orbital frontal cortex and the amygdala are involved in response reversal where instrumental responses must be reversed following contingency change. Impairments in response reversal are also seen in psychopathic individuals. However, it remains unclear whether impairment in response reversal per se is associated with antisocial behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-208
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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