Original Article | Published:

Genetic background of extreme violent behavior

Molecular Psychiatry volume 20, pages 786792 (2015) | Download Citation

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Abstract

In developed countries, the majority of all violent crime is committed by a small group of antisocial recidivistic offenders, but no genes have been shown to contribute to recidivistic violent offending or severe violent behavior, such as homicide. Our results, from two independent cohorts of Finnish prisoners, revealed that a monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) low-activity genotype (contributing to low dopamine turnover rate) as well as the CDH13 gene (coding for neuronal membrane adhesion protein) are associated with extremely violent behavior (at least 10 committed homicides, attempted homicides or batteries). No substantial signal was observed for either MAOA or CDH13 among non-violent offenders, indicating that findings were specific for violent offending, and not largely attributable to substance abuse or antisocial personality disorder. These results indicate both low monoamine metabolism and neuronal membrane dysfunction as plausible factors in the etiology of extreme criminal violent behavior, and imply that at least about 5–10% of all severe violent crime in Finland is attributable to the aforementioned MAOA and CDH13 genotypes.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Auli Toivola for her contribution in the Sequenom Mass Array and MAOA VNTR genotyping and Aija Räsänen for secretarial assistance. The study was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs through the development fund for Niuvanniemi Hospital, Finland. Hanna M Ollila has received funds from Instrumentarium Science Foundation and Orion-Farmos Research Foundation. Kati Kristiansson has received grant from Orion-Farmos Research Foundation and Academy of Finland (grant number 250207).

Author information

Author notes

    • J Tiihonen
    •  & M-R Rautiainen

    These authors contributed equaliy to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

    • J Tiihonen
  2. Department of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Eastern Finland, Niuvanniemi Hospital, Kuopio, Finland

    • J Tiihonen
    •  & E Repo-Tiihonen
  3. National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland

    • J Tiihonen
    • , M-R Rautiainen
    • , H M Ollila
    • , O Pietiläinen
    • , K Kristiansson
    • , H Lauerma
    •  & T Paunio
  4. Stanford University Center for Sleep Sciences, Palo Alto, CA, USA

    • H M Ollila
  5. Department of Psychiatry, University of Helsinki, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Helsinki, Finland

    • M Virkkunen
    •  & T Paunio
  6. Department of Psychiatry, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

    • M Virkkunen
    •  & T Paunio
  7. Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, England

    • A Palotie
  8. Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

    • A Palotie
  9. Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA

    • A Palotie
  10. Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    • A Palotie
  11. Psychiatric & Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

    • A Palotie
  12. Social Psychiatry Unit, School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland

    • M Joukamaa
  13. Psychiatric Hospital for Prisoners, Turku, Finland

    • H Lauerma
  14. University of Turku, Turku, Finland

    • H Lauerma
  15. Finnish Genome Center, Helsinki, Finland

    • J Saarela
  16. The Criminal Sanctions Agency, Helsinki, Finland

    • S Tyni
    •  & H Vartiainen
  17. University of Eastern Finland, Bioinformatics Center, Kuopio, Finland

    • J Paananen
  18. Laboratory of Neurogenetics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, MD, USA

    • D Goldman

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to J Tiihonen or T Paunio.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2014.130

Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on the Molecular Psychiatry website (http://www.nature.com/mp)

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