Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration among Veterans: Associations with Limbic Microstructure

Philine Rojczyk, MS

Brigham and Women’s Hospital – Visiting PhD Student
Rojczyk_Philine poster

Scientific Abstract

Background

Intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration, such as psychological aggression and physical assault, is highly prevalent among veterans. Known risk factors of IPV perpetration include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), combat exposure, depression, and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). While brain imaging research on IPV perpetration is still scarce, previous studies linked violence perpetration in general to hyper-responsivity of the amygdala and related limbic regions.

Methods

Diffusion-weighted imaging (dMRI), structural, and clinical data were acquired from 49 male Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans of the Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS) study. IPV perpetration was assessed with the psychological aggression and physical assault sub-scales of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales II (CTS2). Free-water-corrected fractional anisotropy tissue (FAT) measures were extracted of limbic gray matter structures (amygdala-hippocampus complex, cingulate, entorhinal cortex, parahippocampal gyrus). We calculated correlations between IPV perpetration and limbic FAT while controlling for potential confounders.

Results

Psychological aggression was associated with higher FAT in the right amygdala-hippocampus complex (r = .400, p = .005), even when controlling for age, PTSD, depressive symptoms, and warzone-related stress (r = .380, p = .014). We did not observe associations between physical assault and limbic gray matter FAT.

Conclusion

We report a significant association between diffusion in the right amygdala-hippocampus complex and psychological aggression against an intimate partner. The findings align with previous reports of a limbic system over-reactivity during aggressive states and suggest the possibility of a structural brain correlate underlying IPV perpetration which demands further research.

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research Areas

Authors

Philine Rojczyk, MS, Johanna Seitz-Holland, MD, PhD, Elisabeth Kaufmann, MD, PhD, Valerie J. Sydnor, PhD, Jeffrey P. Guenette, MD, Yogesh Rathi, PhD, Sylvain Bouix, PhD, Ofer Pasternak, PhD, Catherine B. Fortier, PhD, David Salat, PhD, Sidney R. Hinds, MD, William Milberg, PhD, Regina E. McGlinchey, PhD, Martha E. Shenton, PhD, Inga K. Koerte, MD, PhD

Principal Investigator

Inga K. Koerte, MD, PhD