Promotionsförderung Anja Zeller


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.

  • FB Psychologie
Funding sources
Name Project no. Description Period
Sonstige727/18Hector Fellow Academy gGmbH
Further information
Period: 01.12.2018 – 30.11.2021