UPTON, NY An image depicting research findings linking brain chemistry with aggressive personality has been named 2007 Image of the Year by the Society for Nuclear Medicine (SNM). The research, which was performed at the U.S. Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory, showed that healthy men with lower levels of a particular brain enzyme exhibited more aggressive personality traits, as measured by a standard personality questionnaire.
This neuroimaging research in normal, non-violent subjects strengthens the link between low levels of the brain enzyme, known as monoamine oxidase A (MAO A), and aggressive behavior, which has been a topic of research for more than two decades.
Our study provides evidence of an association between brain MAO A level and aggressive personality traits in normal individuals, said Nelly Alia-Klein, an assistant scientist at Brookhaven Labs Center for Translational Neuroimaging, who presented her work at the societys 54th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. If this model of understanding is tested with individuals who actually engage in aggressive or antisocial behavior, such as domestic violence, it could show promise in the future for pharmacological intervention against abnormal aggression, she added.
The researchers assessed brain MAO A activity in 27 healthy, non-violent male volunteers using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning. This technique uses a radiotracer-tagged molecule that binds to brain MAO A and can be measured quantitatively by PET. The subjects also completed a standard, 240-question personality questionnaire, which gave the researchers a complete profile of the mens personalities, not merely their tendency toward aggression.
The main finding: The lower the subjects brain MAO A activity levels, the more they answered yes to statements about taking advantage of others, causing them discomfort, having a short temper, vindictiveness, and enjoying violent movies.
Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory