Regulating aggression after social feedback is an important prerequisite for developing and maintaining social relations, especially in the current times with larger emphasis on online social evaluation. Studies in adults highlighted the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in regulating aggression. Little is known about the development of aggression regulation following social feedback during childhood, while this is an important period for both brain maturation and social relations. The current study used a longitudinal design, with 456 twins undergoing two functional MRI sessions across the transition from middle (7 to 9 y) to late (9 to 11 y) childhood. Aggression regulation was studied using the Social Network Aggression Task. Behavioral aggression after social evaluation decreased over time, whereas activation in the insula, dorsomedial PFC and DLPFC increased over time. Brain-behavior analyses showed that increased DLPFC activation after negative feedback was associated with decreased aggression. Change analyses further revealed that children with larger increases in DLPFC activity from middle to late childhood showed stronger decreases in aggression over time. These findings provide insights into the development of social evaluation sensitivity and aggression control in childhood.

Aggression regulation, Brain development, Childhood, Social evaluation, Social rejection,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Department of Psychology

Achterberg, M. (Michelle), van Duijvenvoorde, A.C.K, van IJzendoorn, M.H, Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J, & Crone, E.A. (2020). Longitudinal changes in DLPFC activation during childhood are related to decreased aggression following social rejection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(15), 8602–8610. doi:10.1073/pnas.1915124117