Request for Information (RFI): Research Challenges and Needs in the Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Aggression
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

December 14, 2021

Response Date:
New Date March 1, 2022 per issuance of NOT-OD-22-071(Original Date: January 31, 2022)

Related Announcements


Issued by

Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)


The NIH is interested in mechanisms related to the processes and outcomes associated with both aggression perpetration and the impact of aggression on victims. This Request for Information (RFI) is specifically requesting information to gain feedback, comments, and novel ideas from members of the scientific community to help identify the gaps and opportunities for research on the biobehavioral mechanisms of aggression and its interactions with other health risks.


Aggression can be referred to as a range of behaviors (e.g., hostile, destructive, and affective) performed by an individual that intends to cause physical or psychological harm to others. While aggression is an innate instinct across humans and animal species, it can cause harm to the health and well-being of social functioning and lead to violence, a leading cause of death and nonfatal injuries in the United States, especially among young people. Aggressive behavior may also interact with other health risks such as alcohol and substance use disorders. Examining the mechanisms underlying aggressive behavior may also provide additional insight into violent human behavior.

Human and animal research has demonstrated that aggression results from various causes such as developmental influences, stressful environmental factors, or underlying psychopathologies. In some individuals, repetitive acts of aggression may be due to an underlying neurobiological susceptibility (e.g., imbalanced hormone levels, altered top-down control systems or bottom-up driver systems in the brain, and genetic factors) that modulates responses to stimuli. However, the neurobiological mechanisms of the variability in aggressive responses, impulsivity, the interaction with psychosocial/environmental influences, and the consequences of aggression on physiological processes and disease conditions remain important research questions.

In addition, the biobehavioral impact of aggression on a victim is not well understood. While the health impact of early life stress is known to affect brain development, impair cognition, and increase risk for psychopathology, the health impact and underlying mechanisms specific to experiencing aggression early in life are less well known.

Because the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying aggression and its interactions with other risky health behaviors are not fully understood, current interventions to prevent or mitigate aggressive behavior and treatments for those experiencing the impacts of aggression have had varied success. However, new approaches including innovative methodologies and techniques for researching neural circuit function and biobehavioral aspects underlying aggressive behavior can help identify regulatory processes and mechanisms of aggressive behaviors in animals and humans and establish the neurobiological basis of aggression. Applying these new approaches may facilitate the identification of new biological or behavioral therapeutic targets that can improve therapeutic translation from laboratory to real-world implementation. Translating mechanistic knowledge to inform the development, evaluation, and implementation of innovative interventions to prevent and treat aggressive behavior in humans remains a challenge for the research community.

NIH invites input from the scientific community, including but not limited to researchers and trainees across academia, industry, and government; health care providers, healthcare professional organizations and patient advocacy organizations; small businesses and the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry; nongovernmental, scientific and professional organizations; and Federal agencies. Additional stakeholders representing other segments of the American public are also invited to submit comments related to this research. Organizations are strongly encouraged to submit a single response that reflects the views of their organization and membership as a whole.

Information Requested

We are requesting information on the challenges and research gaps and opportunities that can best be addressed through a concerted and coordinated effort to enhance research on the biobehavioral contributions to aggressive behavior and its impact across the lifespan. Specifically, respondents are asked to provide input on any of the following:

  • Gaps and opportunities in our fundamental understanding of biobehavioral mechanisms of aggression in humans and animals
  • Gaps and opportunities in the development and use of methods, tools, technology, or other research resources to enable better characterization of the biological, psychological, and environmental mechanisms underlying aggressive behaviors and the biobehavioral impact of those experiencing aggression
  • Gaps and opportunities in the identification of biomedical, behavioral, and psychosocial intervention targets for preventing and treating aggressive behavior and mitigating its impact on health and well being
  • Gaps and opportunities in the characterization of multimodal / multivariate approaches applicable to either primary or secondary data to understanding how other biological, behavioral and/or social/environmental factors such as alcohol and substance use or gender norms interact to influence aggression
  • Gaps and opportunities in the considerations of ethical, legal, and social implications for research investigating the biobehavioral mechanisms of aggression, including implications for applied work in human research
  • Any other issues that NIH should consider that may advance research on identifying neurobiological mechanistic approaches and potential intervention targets for preventing/treating aggressive behavior and/or mitigating its impacts across the lifespan

How to Submit a Response

All comments must be submitted through the following link:

Responses must be received by 11:59pm ET on January 31, 2022 to be considered. You will see an electronic confirmation acknowledging receipt of your response.

Responses are voluntary and may be submitted anonymously. Please do not include any personally identifiable or other information that you do not wish to make public. No proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should be included in your response. NIH will use all information submitted in response to this RFI Notice at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder’s submission. NIH may use information gathered by this RFI Notice to inform the development of future funding opportunity announcements and/or in any resultant solicitations.

This RFI Notice is for information and planning purpose only and should not be interpreted as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government and/or the NIH. No monetary awards will be made to pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government’s use of such information. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Kristin Brethel-Haurwitzc, Ph.D.
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)
Telephone: 301-402-3930