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Aggression Research at UVA

By: Marcus Washington
By: Marcus Washington

March 8, 2006

For many years aggression in males has been linked to hormones, but a recent study at the University of Virginia shows that there may be another explanation. Your genes could play a part in aggression.

For years the question of what makes men typically more aggressive than woman has boggled the medical minds of the world. Now what once was thought of as a hormonal difference is now possibly much more than that.

"We're looking for differences in behavior that are sexually dymorphic that males and females do differently. So things like aggression," explained Dr. Emilie Rissman of the University of Virginia.

The work of Dr. Rissman and her researching team has recently been published in the Journal of Neuroscience. What the study is showing is that males who typically express aggression more than females have a trait that has typically been thought of as hormonal. Now it looks as if your body's genes could be play a role in that emotion.

"Certainly some of it will come from cultural experiential things, but some of it is also going to come from your biology. And so part of your biology is your genes, and genes that differ between males and females in all mammals could be on these sex chormosomes," Rissman said.

This means that the biological differences between men and women are more than just hormonal.

"Previously we've always thought that all of these sex differences--what makes us different as men and women--was something hormonal," said Research Assistant Jessica Gatewood. "Now we have a different way of looking at it, and it's not that cut and dry."

With more research, those differences that are looked at as inappropriate aggression could possibly become treatable.

“I think if we find the genes in the mice and then those genes come out to be important in humans, I think it could eventually mean something for treatment,” said Rissman.

Researchers have been working on this particular study for nearly a year. To read more on the full published work of the research, go to www.healthsystem.virginia.edu or www.jneurosci.org.


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