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Home > Research Articles > Aggression and anxiety gene discovered


Friday, January 24, 2003

Susan Aldridge, PhD

A gene which controls levels of aggression and anxiety in mice has been uncovered and may shed new light on human behavior.

Researchers at Case Western University in the US have been looking at Pet-1, a gene which is active in serotonin neurons in the brain. We already know that serotonin, a brain chemical, is important in moods and emotions - and that low levels are linked to both depression and violent behaviour.

In new experiments, the team studied mice genetically-modified to lack Pet-1. These animals were both more aggressive and more anxious than normal mice. For example, they attacked animals introduced into their living space immediately, rather than engaging in exploratory behaviour. And they were reluctant to venture into open, unprotected territory, displaying excessive levels of anxiety.

Such mice could be useful models for testing drugs meant to target anxiety and aggressive behaviour. It might also be worthwhile screening people for Pet-1 variants, which could underlie depression and aggression in certain individuals.

Source Neuron 23rd January 2003