2012, pp 227-280
Date: 14 Apr 2012

Genetic and Epigenetic Determinants of Aggression

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Abstract

Every year many people worldwide die because of assault, and many more become victims of aggressive behavior including terrorism and hooliganism. Although aggression is an adaptive response to social challenges of the environment, pathological forms, mostly associated with other psychological disturbances, are highly destructive. Several brain regions (like hypothalamic attach are, medial amygdala, periaqueductal gray) and several molecules (testosterone, serotonin, vasopressin, etc.) are involved in the development of this behavior, but one of the most important determinants is the behavior of the encounter. Therefore, it is not surprising that epigenetic changes, connecting environment with gene activation, could be highly involved in fine-tuning the brain structures and molecular network taking part in aggression. In the last few decades, a lot of knowledge accumulated about epigenetic modification during development and in cancer formation; however, little is known about the role of epigenetic changes in mature cells. In this chapter, we summarize the available evidence on connection between aggression and genetic and epigenetic modification. One of the main determinants of this behavior, testosterone acts—at least partly—on epigenome. Other important contributors, like parts of the serotonergic system, vasopressin, and neurotrophins, underwent epigenetic regulations. Moreover, inhibition of histone deacetylase influences the aggressive behavior of animals. All the reviewed studies support the importance of genetic and epigenetic changes in the development of aggression.