, Volume 126, Issue 1, pp 101-113

Genetics of human aggressive behaviour

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Abstract

A consideration of the evolutionary, physiological and anthropological aspects of aggression suggests that individual differences in such behaviour will have important genetic as well as environmental underpinning. Surveys of the likely pathways controlling the physiological and neuronal processes involved highlight, as obvious targets to investigate, genes implicated in sexual differentiation, anxiety, stress response and the serotonin neurotransmitter pathway. To date, however, association studies on single candidates have provided little evidence for any such loci with a major effect size. This may be because genes do not operate independently, but function against a background in which other genetic and environmental factors are crucial. Indeed, a series of recent studies, particularly concentrating on the serotonin and norepinephrine metabolising enzyme, monoamine oxidase A, has emphasised the necessity of examining gene by environmental interactions if the contributions of individual loci are to be understood. These findings will have major significance for the interpretation and analysis of data from detailed whole genome association studies. Functional imaging studies of genetic variants affecting serotonin pathways have also provided valuable insights into potential links between genes, brain and aggressive behaviour.