Week 5- The MAO-A Gene and Other Leads

May 13, 2022

Welcome back!

I’m sorry for the delay. I was unsure of how to structure and present my findings in a way that makes sense. So in the next few weeks, I will build up an experimental design that I will create with the graduate students whom I work with. This week I focused on the MAO-A gene, which is colloquially called the serial killer gene or the warrior gene, however giving it such a name only stigmatizes it so I will avoid making such assumptions. At its core, it is a gene that is responsible for creating an enzyme called monoamine-oxidase A which breaks down neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are critical in aggression, stress, and cognition-related functioning in the brain. In addition, it also plays a role in apoptosis, which is necessary for the development of tissue, organs, and the brain. In the 1990s, through experiments done with lab rats, researchers linked low levels of MAO-A to increased frequencies of antisocial behavior, especially in cases where the person had a history of childhood trauma. Similar types of research have been repeated in American boys in 7 to 12th grade. These studies also linked a lack of the MAO-A gene to teenage delinquency, however, it is important to recognize that these kids were also exposed to other stressors such as family issues, bullying, and failing school. While recognizing that these genes correlate with violent behavior, it is wrong to assume that a couple of genes are the only causes for such behaviors. However, it is an interesting topic that I will continue to explore. 

I also got my hands on two books that I plan to finish in a couple weeks to supplement my research. The books are; War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, which is focused on the question of “who terrorists are” and Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, which explores the ways that brainwashing is implemented in real life. The intersection of these two books is critical for my project topic, so it is very exciting to be able to connect them with my research. 

See you next week! 


2 Replies to “Week 5- The MAO-A Gene and Other Leads”

  1. Luc M. says:

    Your research on the MAO-A gene was very interesting! It is intriguing that it was linked to teenage delinquency. I look forward to hearing about the books you read in your upcoming blogs, keep up the great work!

  2. Sid R. says:

    Great work, Amber! I’d love to learn more about which neurotransmitters, if any, you think are the most important when it comes to aggression.

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