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Economic status, genetics together influence psychopathic traits
Date:8/5/2010

nsporter protein gene. This gene codes for a protein that transports serotonin from the synapse into presynaptic neurons. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep and other functions including memory and learning.

The two variants, or alleles, of the serotonin transporter protein gene differ in length. The longer allele produces more of the transporter protein, which researchers suspect results in more serotonin being shuttled out of the synapse. How this affects brain function is unclear, however; less serotonin in the synapse could mean less or more serotonin in the brain.

Previous studies have found that those who are highly impulsive and aggressive tend to have less brain serotonin than their peers, while people with psychopathic traits generally have higher brain serotonin levels.

Other research has found an association between the highly impulsive personality type and the shorter allele on the serotonin transport protein gene.

In two separate studies, Verona, Sadeh and their colleagues found that pubescent and prepubescent children with the longer alleles for the transporter gene scored higher than other children on psychopathic traits if they also had low socioeconomic status. These children reportedly exhibited less empathy, they were more prone to arrogance and deceitfulness and were less emotionally responsive to negative events than their peers. In contrast, youth with the long alleles who also had high socioeconomic status scored very low on psychopathic traits suggesting that the long allele is susceptible to socioeconomic environment, "for better or for worse."

Children carrying the short alleles for the same gene scored higher on impulsivity, regardless of their socioeconomic status, the researchers found.

"This is the first genetic evidence that these two types have different origins," Verona said.


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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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