Aggression is associated with greater subsequent alcohol consumption: A shared neural basis in the ventral striatum

David S. Chester, C. Nathan DeWall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Alcohol use and abuse (e.g., binge drinking) are among the most reliable causes of aggressive behavior. Conversely, people with aggressive dispositions (e.g., intermittent explosive disorder) are at greater risk for subsequent substance abuse. Yet it remains unknown why aggression might promote subsequent alcohol use. Both aggressive acts and alcohol use are rewarding and linked to greater activity in neural reward circuitry. Through this shared instantiation of reward, aggression may then increase subsequent alcohol consumption. Supporting this mechanistic hypothesis, participants’ aggressive behavior directed at someone who had recently rejected them, was associated with more subsequent beer consumption on an ad-lib drinking task. Using functional MRI, both aggressive behavior and beer consumption were associated with greater activity in the bilateral ventral striatum during acts of retaliatory aggression. These results imply that aggression is linked to subsequent alcohol abuse, and that a mechanism underlying this effect is likely to be the activation of the brain's reward circuitry during aggressive acts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalAggressive Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • aggression
  • alcohol
  • fMRI
  • reward
  • ventral striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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