Regions of white matter abnormalities in the arcuate fasciculus in veterans with anger and aggression problems

David, Szabolcs, Heesink, Lieke, Geuze, Elbert, Gladwin, Thomas, van Honk, Jack, Kleber, Rolf, Leemans, Alexander


Brain Structure and Function 225 (4), p. 1401-1411


Aggression after military deployment is a common occurrence in veterans. Neurobiological research has shown that aggression is associated with a dysfunction in a network connecting brain regions implicated in threat processing and emotion regulation. However, aggression may also be related to deficits in networks underlying communication and social cognition. The uncinate and arcuate fasciculi are integral to these networks, thus studying potential abnormalities in these white matter connections can further our understanding of anger and aggression problems in military veterans. Here, we use diffusion tensor imaging tractography to investigate white matter microstructural properties of the uncinate fasciculus and the arcuate fasciculus in veterans with and without anger and aggression problems. A control tract, the parahippocampal cingulum was also included in the analyses. More specifically, fractional anisotropy (FA) estimates are derived along the trajectory from all fiber pathways and compared between both groups. No between-group FA differences are observed for the uncinate fasciculus and the cingulum, however parts of the arcuate fasciculus show a significantly lower FA in the group of veterans with aggression and anger problems. Our data suggest that abnormalities in arcuate fasciculus white matter connectivity that are related to self-regulation may play an important role in the etiology of anger and aggression in military veterans.