Neuroscience of Aggression

Volume 17 of the series Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences pp 297-313


Neurobiological Mechanisms for Impulsive-Aggression: The Role of MAOA

  • Hayley M. DorfmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard University
  • , Andreas Meyer-LindenbergAffiliated withCentral Institute of Mental Health
  • , Joshua W. BuckholtzAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard UniversityCenter for Brain Science, Harvard University Email author 

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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