Anterior cingulate cortex gray matter volume mediates an association between 2D:4D ratio and trait aggression in women but not men.
Previous research demonstrates that prenatal testosterone exposure increases aggression, possibly through its effects on the structure and function of neural circuits supporting threat detection and emotion regulation. Here we examined associations between regional gray matter volume, trait aggression, and the ratio of the second and fourth digit of the hand (2D:4D ratio) as a putative index of prenatal testosterone exposure in 464 healthy young adult volunteers. Our analyses revealed a significant positive correlation between 2D:4D ratio and gray matter volume of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), a brain region supporting emotion regulation, conflict monitoring, and behavioral inhibition. Subsequent analyses demonstrated that reduced (i.e., masculinized) gray matter volume in the dACC mediated the relationship between 2D:4D ratio and aggression in women, but not men. Expanding on this gender-specific mediation, additional analyses demonstrated that the shared variance between 2D:4D ratio, dACC gray matter volume, and aggression in women reflected the tendency to engage in cognitive reappraisal of emotionally provocative stimuli. Our results provide novel evidence that 2D:4D ratio is associated with masculinization of dACC gray matter volume, and that this neural phenotype mediates, in part, the expression of trait aggression in women.
Gorka, AX; Norman, RE; Radtke, SR; Carré, JM; Hariri, AR
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