2007 Image of the Year: Molecular imaging relates human brain chemistry to aggressive behavior

ges of human aggression.

The study is an example of how scientists are beginning to investigate the complex relationships between an individuals biology and his behavior toward others, said Nelly Alia-Klein, an assistant scientist at the Brookhaven Center for Translational Neuroimaging at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. Brookhaven is one of 10 national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energys Office of Science. After a publicized case of violence, we see and hear many stories about the aggressors behavior prior to the incident and his way of life and the relationships he had with other people. However, scientists agree that there are many reasons why and how people move from aggression to violence, which most of the time involved physical assault, she added. Our study concentrated on how someones genetic and brain makeup can influence aggressive personality in healthy non-violent volunteers. Our major finding is that having more of the brain MAO A enzymatic activity is related to reporting less aggressive behavior in a personality questionnaire said Alia-Klein.

She explained that for more than two decades, scientists have studied MAO in relation to aggressive and violent behavior. Joanna S. Fowler, an SNM member, member of the National Academy of Sciences and a senior chemist at Brookhaven, developed a way to tag the MAO A enzyme and study its activity in the brain. The healthy, nonviolent men who volunteered to do our study had their MAO A brain activity captured by PET, a camera that uses molecules with special tags to map chemical activity in the brain, explained Alia-Klein. The men then answered a questionnaire that mapped their personality profile.

We discovered that the amount of MAO A activity in the brain of 27 healthy men corresponded to the amount of aggression they reported in the questionnaire, said Alia-Klein. The less MAO A they had in the brain, the more they answered y

Contact: Maryann Verrillo
Society of Nuclear Medicine

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