Epigenetic Marker of Appetitive Aggression


Anecdotally, combatants report to feel appealed by the perpetration of violence.

This trait is also called combat high or appetitive aggression. Thus far, appetitive aggression is only assessed through self-report. The proposed PhD project intends to create an objective marker for appetitive aggression through epigenetic analyses. I will implement this by applying Elastic Net multivariate regression modelling following the model of the epigenetic clock by Horvath (2013). I will use already existing DNA data from former child soldiers and abducted children in Uganda (N = 1012), and from active soldiers in Burundi (N = 200, two measurement points). DNA methylation profiles from these saliva samples have already been generated using Infinium MethylationEPIC BeadChips (Illumina). In addition, I will also have access to collected data from other groups of excombatants (DR Congo, N = 400; Burundi, N = 390) and active soldiers (Burundi, N = 281, two measurement points) which will be analysed over the course of the project. With these data sets I will create and test an epigenetic reference panel for appetitive aggression. Subsequently, the model will then be tested in independently collected DNA samples. Furthermore, I will investigate which external changes impact the characteristics of appetitive aggression on a molecular level. This novel approach will help to improve and to test the effectiveness of interventions regarding appetitive aggression in an objective manner.

  • WG Elbert (Klinische Psychologie & Neuropsychologie)
Funding sources
Name Finanzierungstyp Kategorie Project no.
Sonstige third-party funds research funding program 727/18
Further information
Period: 01.12.2018 – 30.11.2021