Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Marjolein van Donkelaar (Donders series 311)

15 June 2018

Promotors: prof. dr. B. Franke, prof. dr J. Buitelaar,
copromotors: dr. M. Hoogman, dr. J. Bralten

Genetic and neurobiological mechanisms underlying aggression subtypes

Aggression poses a substantial burden for society. It is estimated that world-wide, between 1 and 2 million people die on a yearly basis as a direct result of violence. Many millions more suffer other consequences as a result of aggression, such as disabilities, mental health problems, and employment difficulties, placing a considerable emotional and financial burden on society (WHO, 2007). Most interventions designed to reduce aggression - pharmacological or non-pharmacological - typically have small effects, reflecting our limited understanding of its causes (McGuire, 2008; van Schalkwyk et al., 2017). While aggression has multiple determinants, including environmental factors, characterization of the genetic and neural correlates of aggression is needed to better understand the biological basis of aggression, and may ultimately lead to improved prevention and treatment options (Fergusson et al., 2005a; Rosell and Siever, 2015).
This thesis is aimed at gaining improved insight into the genetic and neurobiological architecture of aggression. More specifically, the focus is on exploring behavioral subtypes of aggression and related etiological heterogeneity, as well as on combining knowledge at the levels of genetic and neural architectures underlying the subtypes. In the following sections, different conceptualizations of aggression are discussed, followed by an overview of the current knowledge of the underlying genetics and neurobiology of aggression. An outline of the thesis chapters and the used study samples is given in the final section of this introduction.