Pain thresholds, pain-induced frontal alpha activity and pain-related evoked potentials are associated with antisocial behavior and aggressiveness in athletes

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Colleges, School and Institutes



Deficiencies in perceptual and cognitive functions have been linked with antisocial and aggressive behavior. To test whether these putative relationships generalize to sport – a context where such behavior is common – we determined the extent to which pain thresholds and cortical activity in response to painful electrical stimulation were associated with antisocial and aggressive behavior in sport; we also examined their link to moral disengagement.


A cross-sectional design was used.


Ninety-four participants completed questionnaires, had their pain threshold determined, and then had their central and frontal pain-related cortical activity recorded while they were electrically stimulated at supra-threshold intensity.


Subjective pain thresholds were positively related while pain induced frontal alpha power was negatively related to antisocial behavior and aggressiveness. Central pain evoked potential amplitudes were negatively related to aggressiveness and moral disengagement.


Sensitivity to and cortical processing of noxious stimuli were reduced in individuals who more frequently behave antisocially and aggressively when playing sport and who are more likely to use psychosocial maneuvers to justify their harmful behavior. Our findings reveal that pain-related deficits are a feature of individuals who engage in more frequent antisocial and aggressive behavior in the context of sport.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date8 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Aggression, Antisocial behavior, Electroencephalography, Moral disengagement, Pain