Longitudinal changes in DLPFC activation during childhood are related to decreased aggression following social rejection

Michelle Achterberg*, Anna C.K. van Duijvenvoorde, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Eveline A. Crone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8602-8610
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
Early online date31 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2020


  • Aggression regulation
  • Brain development
  • Childhood
  • Social evaluation
  • Social rejection


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