Despite the high prevalence and consequences associated with externalizing psychopathologies, little is known about their underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Studying multiple externalizing disorders, each characterized by compromised inhibition, could reveal both common and distinct mechanisms of impairment. The present study therefore compared individuals with intermittent explosive disorder (IED) (N=11), individuals with cocaine use disorder (CUD) (N=21), and healthy controls (N=17) on task performance and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activity during an event-related color-word Stroop task; self-reported trait anger expression was also collected in all participants. Results revealed higher error-related activity in the two externalizing psychopathologies as compared with controls in two subregions of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) (a region known to be involved in exerting cognitive control during this task), suggesting a neural signature of inhibitory-related error processing common to these psychopathologies. Interestingly, in one DLPFC subregion, error-related activity was especially high in IED, possibly indicating a specific neural correlate of clinically high anger expression. Supporting this interpretation, error-related DLPFC activity in this same subregion positively correlated with trait anger expression across all participants. These collective results help to illuminate common and distinct neural signatures of impaired self-control, and could suggest novel therapeutic targets for increasing self-control in clinical aggression specifically and/or in various externalizing psychopathologies more generally.
- Cocaine addiction
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Inhibitory control
- Intermittent explosive disorder
- State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory