Trait and state patterns of basolateral amygdala connectivity at rest are related to endogenous testosterone and aggression in healthy young women

  • Macià Buades-RotgerEmail author
  • Christin Engelke
  • Ulrike M. Krämer
Original Research


The steroid hormone testosterone (T) has been suggested to influence reactive aggression upon its action on the basolateral amygdala (BLA), a key brain region for threat detection. However, it is unclear whether T modulates resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) of the BLA, and whether this predicts subsequent aggressive behavior. Aggressive interactions themselves, which often induce changes in T concentrations, could further alter BLA rsFC, but this too remains untested. Here we investigated the effect of endogenous T on rsFC of the BLA at baseline as well as after an aggressive encounter, and whether this was related to behavioral aggression in healthy young women (n = 39). Pre-scan T was negatively correlated with basal rsFC between BLA and left superior temporal gyrus (STG; p < .001, p < .05 Family-Wise Error [FWE] cluster-level corrected), which in turn was associated with increased aggression (r = .37, p = .020). BLA-STG coupling at rest might thus underlie hostile readiness in low-T women. In addition, connectivity between the BLA and the right superior parietal lobule (SPL), a brain region involved in higher-order perceptual processes, was reduced in aggressive participants (p < .001, p < .05 FWE cluster-level corrected). On the other hand, post-task increases in rsFC between BLA and medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) were linked to reduced aggression (r = −.36, p = .023), consistent with the established notion that the mOFC regulates amygdala activity in order to curb aggressive impulses. Finally, competition-induced changes in T were associated with increased coupling between the BLA and the right lateral OFC (p < .001, p < .05 FWE cluster-level corrected), but this effect was unrelated to aggression. We thus identified connectivity patterns that prospectively predict aggression in women, and showed how aggressive interactions in turn impact these neural systems.


Aggression Testosterone Resting-state functional connectivity Amygdala 



We are grateful to Matthias Liebrand, Alice Nöh, Christian Erdmann, and Susanne Schellbach for their help with the data acquisition. The authors report no conflicts of interest.


This study was funded by the German Science Foundation (grant number KR3691/5–1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study had been approved by the ethics committee of the University of Lübeck.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

All participants provided written informed consent. Additional informed consent was obtained from the confederate, for whom identifying information is included in this article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of LübeckLübeckGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Psychology IIUniversity of LübeckLübeckGermany

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