Neural networks underlying trait aggression depend on MAOA gene alleles

Martin Klasen, Dhana Wolf, Patrick D. Eisner, Ute Habel, Jonathan Repple, Ingo Vernaleken, Thorben Schlüter, Thomas Eggermann, Klaus Zerres, Florian D. Zepf, Klaus Mathiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Low expressing alleles of the MAOA gene (MAOA-L) have been associated with an increased risk for developing an aggressive personality. This suggests an MAOA-L-specific neurobiological vulnerability associated with trait aggression. The neural networks underlying this vulnerability are unknown. The present study investigated genotype-specific associations between resting state brain networks and trait aggression (Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire) in 82 healthy Caucasian males. Genotype influences on aggression-related networks were studied for intrinsic and seed-based brain connectivity. Intrinsic connectivity was higher in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) of MAOA-L compared to high expressing allele (MAOA-H) carriers. Seed-based connectivity analyses revealed genotype differences in the functional involvement of this region. MAOA genotype modulated the relationship between trait aggression and VMPFC connectivity with supramarginal gyrus (SMG) and areas of the default mode network (DMN). Separate analyses for the two groups were performed to better understand how the genotype modulated the relationship between aggression and brain networks. They revealed a positive correlation between VMPFC connectivity and aggression in right angular gyrus (AG) and a negative correlation in right SMG in the MAOA-L group. No such effect emerged in the MAOA-H carriers. The results indicate a particular relevance of VMPFC for aggression in MAOA-L carriers; in specific, a detachment from the DMN along with a strengthened coupling to the AG seems to go along with lower trait aggression. MAOA-L carriers may thus depend on a synchronization of emotion regulation systems (VMPFC) with core areas of empathy (SMG) to prevent aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-881
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Volume223
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

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