White matter microstructure in the executive network associated with aggression in healthy adolescents and young adults
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci
Predicting which individuals may engage in aggressive behavior is of interest in today's society; however, there is little data on the neural basis of aggression in healthy individuals. Here, we tested whether regional differences in white matter (WM) microstructure were associated with later reports of aggressive tendencies. We recontacted healthy young adults an average of 3 years after they underwent research MRI scans. Via electronic survey, we administered the Buss Perry Aggression Questionnaire. We divided aggression into Aggressive Thoughts (Anger and Hostility subscales) and Aggressive Acts (Verbal and Physical subscales) and used Tract-Based Spatial Statistics to test the relationship of those measures to WM microstructure. In 45 individuals age 15-30 at baseline, we observed significant relationships between Aggressive Acts and fractional anisotropy (FA) in a parietal region consistent with the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF). As the SLF has an established relationship to executive function, we performed an exploratory analysis in a subset of individuals with working memory data. Decreased FA in executive network regions, as well as working memory performance, were associated with later self-reported aggressive tendencies. This has implications for our healthy behavior understanding of as well as that of patient populations known to have executive dysfunction.
Faculty, Northwell Researcher
School of Medicine