More than 5.4 million children in Europe suffer from ADHD and/or CD, and costs for their treatment amount to over 6.2 billion Euro per year. Pathological aggression is common in CD, but multiple studies also show increased prevalence of aggression problems in ADHD, further adding to the burden of patients, their families, the victims of aggression, and society as a whole.
Aggressotype is a large EU-funded project on pathological aggression in children and adolescents with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder (CD). The programme receives 6 Mio Euro from the EU to study the Biological underpinnings of aggression and to develop novel prediction and treatment strategies. With 23 academic and private sector partners from 11 countries, Aggressotype is one of the largest programmes on aggression world-wide.
The work packages include molecular and neuroimaging studies of the genetics, epigenetics and neural correlates of aggression. In addition to this, the behavioural components of impulsive and instrumental types of aggression will be examined, and the Aggressotype programme will work towards novel treatment and prevention strategies for maladaptive aggression.
The strong, multidisciplinary team of preclinical and clinical top researchers in the Aggressotype programme hopes to significantly improve the lives of patients and their families in several ways. On the shorter term the team’s research will clarify the effectiveness of existing stimulant treatment for aggression and lead to the development of non-pharmacological Biofeedback therapy for the prevention of aggression escalation. On the longer term, the elucidation of the mechanisms underlying aggression within Aggressotype will allow for the development of entirely new pharmacological interventions and more individualized treatment tailored to the needs of individual patients.
The University Hospital of Würzburg (UKW) will contribute to this programme by investigating the neurobiological mechanisms of aggression in mice. To this end we will make use of mice in which suggested risk genes of aggression were selectively removed (so-called knock-out mice). These mice will be observed for aggressive and impulsive behaviours and their genetic makeup will be further characterized. Furthermore, we will analyse the brain areas involved in aggression by making use of optogenetics, a novel technique that enables researchers to activate or inactivate specific neuronal networks with light. These mice are then tested for gene × environment interactions, with emphasis on molecular sequelae such as epigenetic changes and respective alterations in gene expression. This project will be performed in close collaboration with other researchers of the Aggressotype programme, in particular with Dr. William Norton (University of Leicester), Dr. Jeffrey Glennon (Radboud University Nijmegen), and Dr. Tatyana Strekalova (University of Maastricht). It is anticipated that the results obtained at UKW will facilitate our understanding of genes and neuronal networks involved in the development of aggressive behaviours and subtypes of aggression. Ultimately, when translated to humans, this work will help to better understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying pathological aggression in disorders such as ADHD and CD.