Neural mechanisms of genetic risk for impulsivity and violence in humans.


Neurobiological factors contributing to violence in humans remain poorly understood. One approach to this question is examining allelic variation in the X-linked monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene, previously associated with impulsive aggression in animals and humans. Here, we have studied the impact of a common functional polymorphism in MAOA on brain structure and function assessed with MRI in a large sample of healthy human volunteers. We show that the low expression variant, associated with increased risk of violent behavior, predicted pronounced limbic volume reductions and hyperresponsive amygdala during emotional arousal, with diminished reactivity of regulatory prefrontal regions, compared with the high expression allele. In men, the low expression allele is also associated with changes in orbitofrontal volume, amygdala and hippocampus hyperreactivity during aversive recall, and impaired cingulate activation during cognitive inhibition. Our data identify differences in limbic circuitry for emotion regulation and cognitive control that may be involved in the association of MAOA with impulsive aggression, suggest neural systems-level effects of X-inactivation in human brain, and point toward potential targets for a biological approach toward violence.

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@article{MeyerLindenberg2006NeuralMO, title={Neural mechanisms of genetic risk for impulsivity and violence in humans.}, author={Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg and Joshua W. Buckholtz and Bhaskar S. Kolachana and Ahmad R Hariri and Lukas Pezawas and Giuseppe Blasi and Ashley Wabnitz and Robyn Honea and Beth A. Verchinski and Joseph H. Callicott and Michael Egan and Venkata S. Mattay and Daniel R. Weinberger}, journal={Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America}, year={2006}, volume={103 16}, pages={6269-74} }