Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Economic status, genetics together influence psychopathic traits

06.08.2010
Researchers studying the genetic roots of antisocial behavior report that children with one variant of a serotonin transporter gene are more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits if they also grow up poor.

The study, the first to identify a specific gene associated with psychopathic tendencies in youth, appears this month in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

People with psychopathic traits generally are more callous and unemotional than their peers, said University of Illinois psychology professor Edelyn Verona, whose graduate student Naomi Sadeh led the study.

“Those with psychopathic traits tend to be less attached to others, even if they have relationships with them,” Verona said. “They are less reactive to emotional things in the lab. They are charming and grandiose at times. They’re better at conning and manipulating others, and they have low levels of empathy and remorse.”

Although psychopathy is considered abnormal, these traits may be useful in certain circumstances, Verona said.

“For example, these folks tend to have less anxiety and are less prone to depression,” she said, qualities that might be useful in dangerous or unstable environments. In most cases, their cognitive abilities are also intact.

Studies of psychopathy often focus on those in prison for violent crimes, but most people who commit such crimes are not psychopathic, Verona said.

Unlike the detached, methodical psychopath, violent offenders are often highly emotional and impulsive, and their cognitive abilities are sometimes impaired.

Early research on psychopathy sometimes confused these two “subtypes,” Verona said. “But our research suggests that offenders are very heterogeneous in terms of causal factors,” she said. “That means that although they end up in similar places, they don’t get there through the same pathway.”

The new research focused on two variants of the serotonin transporter protein gene. This gene codes for a protein that transports serotonin from the synapse into presynaptic neurons. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep and other functions including memory and learning.

The two variants, or alleles, of the serotonin transporter protein gene differ in length. The longer allele produces more of the transporter protein, which researchers suspect results in more serotonin being shuttled out of the synapse. How this affects brain function is unclear, however; less serotonin in the synapse could mean less – or more – serotonin in the brain.

Previous studies have found that those who are highly impulsive and aggressive tend to have less brain serotonin than their peers, while people with psychopathic traits generally have higher brain serotonin levels.

Other research has found an association between the highly impulsive personality type and the shorter allele on the serotonin transport protein gene.

In two separate studies, Verona, Sadeh and their colleagues found that pubescent and prepubescent children with the longer alleles for the transporter gene scored higher than other children on psychopathic traits if they also had low socioeconomic status. These children reportedly exhibited less empathy, they were more prone to arrogance and deceitfulness and were less emotionally responsive to negative events than their peers. In contrast, youth with the long alleles who also had high socioeconomic status scored very low on psychopathic traits – suggesting that the long allele is susceptible to socioeconomic environment, “for better or for worse.”

Children carrying the short alleles for the same gene scored higher on impulsivity, regardless of their socioeconomic status, the researchers found.

“This is the first genetic evidence that these two types have different origins,” Verona said.

The research team also included researchers from the University of Maryland-College Park and Yale University. The study was supported in part by the Arnold O. Beckman Award from the University of Illinois and by the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health.

Editor's note: To contact Edelyn Verona, call 217- 265-6708; e-mail everona@illinois.edu. The study, “Serotonin Transporter Gene Associations With Psychopathic Traits in Youth Vary as a Function of Socioeconomic Resources,” is available online.

Diana Yates | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>