Genetic Mutation May Lead to Violent and Reckless Behavior

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While the study's authors noted the correlation between the gene variant and impulsivity, there are approximately more than 100,000 Finns who have this mutation. Just because people carry the genetic variant does not mean that they will act in an impulsive or criminal way.

More than One Genetic Variant

Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman of psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, pointed out that, although this specific genetic mutation relates to only people of Finnish descent, other genetic mutations have been found to cause impulsive behavior.

"As most things in behavior, it is a multigenetic thing," said Galynker. "There are likely a lot of genes that relate to impulsivity."

In a 2006 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that a variant of the MAOA gene, found in many Americans, was associated with an increased risk of impulsive aggression in humans. And carriers of the gene who had been abused as children were even more likely to be violent later in life.

DNA & Individualized Medicine

So how can these findings help medicine in the future, especially for those who suffer from severe impulsivity?

While personalized care has become the face of new medicine, Dr. David Beversdorf, a neurologist in the departments of radiology, neurology and psychological sciences at University of Missouri Health Care, said that scientists still must take caution when assuming the identification of genes will result in individualized treatment.

"[It] has been tricky," said Beversdorf. "Some positive findings have been confirmed in follow-up research. However, a large number of studies that showed tremendous promise for identifying a gene that might affect treatment in initial research have not panned out in further studies."

But still, doctors remain hopeful.

Jerry said, "Studies like these can hold the hope and promise of someday directing treatment where we can ask, Is there a way we can intervene from a medical standpoint to decrease impulsive behavior?"

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