Neurobiological Mechanisms for Impulsive-Aggression: The Role of MAOA

  • Hayley M. Dorfman
  • Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg
  • Joshua W. BuckholtzEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 17)


Aggression may be present across a large part of the spectrum of psychopathology, and underlies costly criminal antisocial behaviors. Human aggression is a complex and underspecified construct, confounding scientific discovery. Nevertheless, some biologically tractable subtypes are apparent, and one in particular—impulsive (reactive) aggression—appears to account for many facets of aggression-related dysfunction in psychiatric illness. Impulsive-aggression is significantly heritable, suggesting genetic transmission. However, the specific neurobiological mechanisms that mediate genetic risk for impulsive-aggression remain unclear. Here, we review extant data on the genetics and neurobiology of individual differences in impulsive-aggression, with particular attention to the role of genetic variation in Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) and its impact on serotonergic signaling within corticolimbic circuitry.


Aggression Violence Corticolimbic Amygdala Genetic MAOA Prefrontal 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hayley M. Dorfman
    • 1
  • Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg
    • 2
  • Joshua W. Buckholtz
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Central Institute of Mental HealthMannheimGermany
  3. 3.Center for Brain ScienceHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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