Two genes linked to violent crime

A history of violent behavior may be related to genetic makeup and two genes in particular, according to a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden discovered people with the MAOA gene and a variant of cadherin 13 (CDH13) were 13 times more likely to engage in repeated violence. MAOA gene codes an enzyme that plays a role in controlling dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain; it has previously been linked to aggressive behavior. CDH13 has previously been associated with ADHD and substance abuse.

Around 900 criminal offenders from Finland were analyzed for the study. The offenders were categorized into violent and non-violent groups based on their crimes. Genetics and previous behaviors correlated the strongest among the 78 categorized as extremely violent. Those who were classified as non-violent offenders did not have the two genes.

These results could affect how criminals are charged or treated in the future. For now, however, the researchers noted that these genes cannot be used to screen potential criminals. Not everyone who has the genetic combination will commit a crime.

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