serotonin and aggressive behavior
Alan J. Robinson
robin073 at maroon.tc.umn.edu
Thu Feb 15 11:48:01 EST 1996
On Tue, 13 Feb 1996 14:27:20 GMT,
Tara L. Plummer <plummert at river.it.gvsu.edu > wrote:
>I was wondering if anyone had any information on serotonin and the effects it
>has on behavior, namely aggressive behavior. It can be related to the human
>or any other species.
The Jan 19 issue of Science has several articles on serotonin and
social status in animals, which is related to agressive behavior.
It has also been known for a long time that violent suicidal death is
marked by lowered 5-HIAA (a metabolite of serotonin) in the CSF.
Serotonin, along with the other monoamines dopamine and
norepinephrine, plays a pivotal role in Cloninger's biosocial model
of the brain. He relates the behavioral variations to differences in
base neural firing rates, rather than to synaptic levels.
Though Cloninger doesn't fully elaborate on the behavioral
consequences, the combination of high novelty seeking (dopamine) and
low harm avoidance (serotonin) would appear to be associated with high
social dominance and its associated aggressive behavior in humans.
When combined with low reward maintenance (norepinephrine) the stage
is set for extremely violent behavior such as serial killing and
The whole question of social dominance in various animal species is a
very interesting and fundamental one as it appears throughout the
animal kingdom - insects, birds, reptiles, mammals etc. It's not
entirely clear what adaptive purpose it serves and why it is even
present - it would seem that a natural consequence of dominance would
be the total spread of genes for social dominance throughout the
population by means of preferential mating. (Not survival of the
fittest, but survival of the most ruthless).
The trait of high social dominance is also responsible for many of the
ills of human society through social stratification and associated
abusive and exploitive behavior.
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