By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
According to a new study, one particular overactive gene could explain that dude you know who goes from Jekyll to Hyde when he gets a few drinks in him. The MAOA gene produces an enzyme that breaks down mood-related chemicals, and high levels of this enzyme mixed with alcohol creates a “dangerous cocktail,” triggering violent behavior.
It was already known that this gene is linked to violent behavior. In a profound and somewhat disturbing demonstration of the link, scientists found a family in the Netherlands with a particular mutation in the gene; every male family member with that mutation was an arsonist or rapist.
In the recent study, scientists found that in 174 Finnish male alcoholics with histories of violence, drinking increased the risk of impulsive violence among those with a highly active MAOA gene. The effects decrease with age, which could be part of the reason we don’t usually see the senior crowd getting into bar fights. According to one of the researchers:
Alcoholism, alcohol consumption and violence are clearly related. People react quite differently to acute alcohol exposure. Most individuals become relaxed and talkative, while some – particularly people who are introverted while sober – become expansively extroverted and aggressive. Perhaps we could increase the efficacy of addition rehabilitation by focusing resources particularly on younger heavy-drinking, high-activity MAOA individuals.
The hope is that that people could be screened for the gene. They could then be offered treatment or behavioural therapy… or better yet, decide to abstain from alcohol.
This research will appear in the March issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
[Image Source: Flickr]