Although research indicates a relationship between the monoamine oxidase-A (MAOA) gene and aggression, the intervening neural and psychological mechanisms are unknown. Individuals with the low expression allele (MAOA-L) of a functional polymorphism in the MAOA gene might be prone to aggression because they are socially or emotionally hyposensitive and thus care less about harming others or because they are socially or emotionally hypersensitive and thus respond to negative social experiences with defensively aggressive behavior.
We investigated the relationships between the MAOA polymorphism, trait aggression, trait interpersonal hypersensitivity, and neural responses to social exclusion in 32 healthy men and women.
The MAOA-L individuals (men and women) reported higher trait aggression than individuals with the high expression allele (MAOA-H). The MAOA-L individuals reported higher trait interpersonal hypersensitivity and showed greater dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activity (associated with rejection-related distress) to social exclusion compared with MAOA-H individuals, consistent with a social hypersensitivity hypothesis. Moreover, the MAOA–aggression relationship was mediated by greater dACC reactivity to social exclusion, suggesting that MAOA might relate to aggression through socioemotional hypersensitivity.
These data suggest that the relationship between MAOA and aggression might be due to a heightened rather than a reduced sensitivity to negative socioemotional experiences like social rejection.
To read this article in full you will need to make a payment
Purchase one-time access:Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
One-time access price info
- For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
- For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'
Subscribe:Subscribe to Biological Psychiatry
Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
Already an online subscriber? Sign in
Register: Create an account
Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect
- Aggression: Its Causes, Consequences, and Control. Temple University Press, Philadelphia1993
- The roles of orbital frontal cortex in the modulation of antisocial behavior.Brain Cogn. 2004; 55: 198-208
- The development of psychopathy.J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006; 47: 262-275
- Patterns of brain activation in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.N Engl J Med. 2000; 343: 450-456
- Abnormal behavior associated with a point mutation in the structural gene for monoamine oxidase A.Science. 1993; 262: 578-580
- Population stratification and spurious allelic association.Lancet. 2003; 361: 598-604
- Aggressive behavior and altered amounts of brain serotonin and norepinephrine in mice lacking MAOA.Science. 1995; 268: 1763-1766
- Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children.Science. 2002; 297: 851-854
- Emotional and personality changes following cingulotomy.Emotion. 2001; 1: 38-50
- Social information-processing mechanisms on reactive and proactive aggression.Child Devel. 1996; 67: 993-1002
- The Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI): Administration, Scoring, and Procedures Manual -1. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Clinical Psychometrics Research Unit, Baltimore, Maryland1982
- A biopsychosocial model of the development of chronic conduct problems in adolescence.Dev Psychol. 2003; 39: 349-371
- Anger in healthy men: A PET study using script-driven imagery.Biol Psychiatry. 1999; 46: 466-472
- Does rejection hurt?.Science. 2003; 302: 290-292
- Mapping the genetic variation of executive attention onto brain activity.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003; 100: 7406-7411
- Improved assessment of significant activation in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): Use of a cluster-size threshold.Magn Reson Med. 1995; 33: 636-647
- Callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems in the prediction of conduct problem severity, aggression, and self-report delinquency.J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2003; 31: 457-470
- Positron emission tomography quantification of [11C]-harmine binding to monoamine oxidase-A in the human brain.J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2006; 26: 330-344
- Frontal lobe injuries, violence, and aggression: A report of the Vietnam head injury study.Neurology. 1996; 46: 1231-1238
- Serotonin transporter genetic variation and the response of the human amygdala.Science. 2002; 297: 400-403
- Imaging genomics.Br Med Bull. 2003; 65: 259-270
- Serotonergic modulation of the limbic system.Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006; 30: 203-214
- A comparison of methods to test mediation and other intervening variable effects.Psychol Meth. 2002; 7: 83-104
- A regulatory polymorphism of the monoamine oxidase-A gene may be associated with variability in aggression, impulsivity, and central nervous system serotonergic responsivity.Psychiatry Res. 2000; 95: 9-23
- Catechol O-methyltransferase val158-met genotype and individual variation in the brain response to amphetamine.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003; 100: 6186-6191
- Stereotactic cingulotomy with results of acute stimulation and serial testing.in: Laitinen L.V. Livingston K.E. Surgical Approaches to Psychiatry. MTP, Lancaster, United Kingdom1973: 39-58
- Neural mechanisms of genetic risk for impulsivity and violence in humans.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006; 103: 6269-6274
- Monoamine oxidase-A genetic variations influence brain activity associated with inhibitory control: New insight into the neural correlates of impulsivity.Biol Psychiatry. 2006; 59: 334-340
- Primate anterior cingulate cortex: Where motor control, drive, and cognition interface.Nat Neurosci Rev. 2001; 2: 417-424
- Cingulotomy for psychiatric disease: Microelectrode guidance, a callosal reference system for documenting lesion location, and clinical results.Neurosurgery. 2004; 54: 622-630
- A functional polymorphism in the monoamine oxidase A gene promoter.Hum Genet. 1998; 103: 273-279
- Monoamine oxidase: From genes to behavior.Annu Rev Neurosci. 1999; 22: 197-217
- The experience and expression of anger: Construction and validation of an anger expression scale.in: Chesney M.A. Rosenman R.H. Anger and Hostility in Cardiovascular and Behavioral Disorders. Hemisphere Publishing, Washington, DC1985
- If you can’t join them, beat them: Effects of social exclusion on aggressive behavior.J Pers Soc Psych. 2001; 81: 1058-1069
- Population stratification in epidemiologic studies of common genetic variants and cancer: Quantification of bias.J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000; 92: 1151-1158
- The anterior cingulate gyrus and personality.Res Publ Assoc Nerv Ment Dis. 1948; 27: 438-445
- Cyberostracism: Effects of being ignored over the Internet.J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000; 79: 748-762
Published online: November 30, 2006
Accepted: August 10, 2006
Received in revised form: August 9, 2006
Received: June 29, 2006
© 2007 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.