Networking and interdisciplinary knowledge transfer
Alumni - Doctoral projects
© Anja Rukundo-Zeller

Epige­netic Under­ly­ing of Appet­i­tive Aggression

Anja Rukundo-Zeller – Hector Fellow Thomas Elbert

Aggres­sion can be distin­guished in a reactive form, which is a protec­tive response to an acute threat and an instru­men­tal form, which is goal directed. Appet­i­tive aggres­sion is a sub form of instru­men­tal aggres­sion, which is defined by the experi­ence of lust when perpe­trat­ing violence.

So far, the latter has been only assessed through self-report. The doctoral project under super­vi­sion of Prof. Thomas Elbert intends to create an objec­tive, epige­netic marker for appet­i­tive aggression.

Anecdo­tally, combat­ants report of the phenom­e­non to feel appealed by the perpe­tra­tion of violence, which is known as appet­i­tive aggres­sion (AA). Thus far, AA has only been assessed through self-report. The doctoral project under super­vi­sion of Prof. Thomas Elbert intends to create an objec­tive marker for AA through epige­netic analy­ses. This will be imple­mented through regres­sion model­ling follow­ing the approach by Horvath (2013) for his epige­netic clock. As train­ing data, we will use already exist­ing DNA methy­la­tion profiles (processed with the Infinium Methy­la­tion Assay) from former child soldiers and abducted children in Uganda (N = 1012), and active soldiers in Burundi (N = 200, two measure­ment points). In addition, we will also use previ­ously collected data from other groups of ex-combat­ants (DR Congo, N = 400; Burundi, N = 390) and active soldiers (Burundi, N = 281, two measure­ment points) for which the creation of DNA methy­la­tion profiles is planned over the course of the project. These will be used as test sets.

Subse­quently, the epige­netic regres­sion model will then be used to inves­ti­gate which exter­nal changes influ­ence AA on a biolog­i­cal level. In partic­u­lar, we will study if the increase in AA, which is appar­ent when individ­u­als have combat experi­ence during adoles­cence, is sustain­able in the epigenome. This novel approach might help to improve and to test the effec­tive­ness of inter­ven­tions regard­ing AA in an objec­tive manner.

Helicity Preserving Cavity for Circular Dichroism Enhancement

Anja Rukundo-Zeller

Univer­sity of Konstanz

Super­vised by

Prof. Dr.

Thomas Elbert


Hector Fellow since 2009