Letter | Published:

Intrauterine nutrition and aggression

Nature volume 257, pages 221222 (18 September 1975) | Download Citation



WITH the increase in conflict and aggression in human society, the underlying causes of aggression take on added significance. The laboratory investigation of human aggression is difficult primarily because of ethical considerations. Animal aggression must therefore serve as a model for the experimental study of suspected causes of aggression. One potential cause is malnutrition, which has been assessed by studies of the effects of prenatal zinc deficiency and intra-uterine undernutrition on aggressive behaviour in the adult rat. Prenatal zinc deficiency was chosen because it has been found to significantly reduce the size of the brains of foetal1 and neonatal rats2, to impair the synthesis of DNA in the rat brain3, and to decrease the activity of RNA polymerase in neonatal rat liver4 and brain5. When zinc deficiency is very severe an increased incidence of central nervous system teratology occurs in the foetal rat6. Behavioural deficits such as impaired avoidance learning have also been observed1,7.

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  1. Department of Psychology, University of North Dakota, and US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Human Nutrition Laboratory, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58201

    • , MARK J. HANLON


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