Investigating the Causes of Aggression




Ute Habel

Prorektorin für Internationales


+49 241 80 85230



The German Research Foundation, DFG, is establishing four international research training groups, including one titled "Neuronal Foundations of the Modulation of Aggression and Impulsiveness within Psychopathology" at RWTH Aachen. Starting in April 2016, the training group will receive approximately four million Euros for the next four and a half years.


Whether riots in football stadiums, physical violence in families, or verbal attacks in business meetings: aggressive behavior has many sides. Some people react completely inappropriately either verbally or physically in some situations. This behavior can be clearly recognized; however the causes behind it are very much unexplored.

Influence on Human Behavior

The new research training group aims at gaining insight into how various factors such as environment, traumatic experiences, personality, sex, culture, and genetic factors influence aggressive and impulsive behavior in humans. Furthermore, with the help of modern imaging technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, and electroencephalography, neuronal networks and the transport of certain messenger substances in the brain are analyzed that are partially responsible for impulsive and aggressive behavior.

"Together with a leading American university, the University of Pennsylvania, the research training group is investigating a clinically and socially relevant topic: the neurobiological foundations of pathological aggression and impulsiveness. These pose great challenges for therapists trying to treat them," explains Dr. Ute Habel. The RWTH professor of neuropsychological gender research and head of the section "Neuropsychology" at University Hospital Aachen is speaker of the new research training group.

Intercontinental Collaboration

The internationally aligned program for junior researchers offers the participating doctoral candidates interesting tasks, which are supervised by one supervisor each from University Hospital Aachen and the University of Pennsylvania, Penn, as a partner university. Possible doctoral topics include "Modulation of Aggression Through Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation," "Interaction Between Stress Reaction, Sex Hormones and Aggression, and Childhood and Adolescence," or "Chemosensor Modulation of Aggression." The transnational collaboration makes it possible for participants to complete multi-month stays at Penn as well as participation in regularly scheduled scientific exchange, such as at the annual winter schools.