Neural factors in aggressive behaviour: serotonin

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Psychology unit 3 aggression revision
Neural factors in aggressive behaviour- serotonin
Davidson, Putnam, Larson (inhibitory function) compared violent and non violent
criminals and found that violent criminals had significantly lower levels of
serotonin. Therefore normal serotonin levels may inhibit violence.
Supported by animal research
mice who have malfunctioning serotonin 1B receptor are more aggressive
Vervet monkeys with high amounts of serotonin showed fewer aggressive
interactions. Low levels of serotonin have higher aggressive interactions.
Comparisons of Russian tame silver foxes to wild ones show that tame foxes
have higher levels of serotonin, tryptophan hydroxylase (used to create
serotonin) and low levels of MAOA.
However, as this is research involving animals it may not be possible to generalise
to humans as humans have different ways of channelling anger.
Supported by human research- drug treatments
Bond showed that depressed people on Prozac have reduced irritability and
impulsive aggression. Prozac is a drug that reduces the amount of enzymes
that breakdown serotonin, therefore increasing serotonin levels
Tryptophan on its own or combined with Desyrel 5HTP (a drug that boosts
serotonin) has been given to juvenile delinquents or unpredictable
institutionalised patients. These reduce their aggressive behaviour.
Correlational evidence: such as prisoners and vervet monkeys. This shows there
is a link between serotonin and aggression but it can;' tell you that serotonin
causes aggression. This is a problem because the theory is deterministic and the
evidence is correlational so the evidence only partly supports the theory.
Deterministic: as the theory suggests that serotonin causes aggression and hence
not allowing for free will.
Reductionist: ignores other factors such as upbringing, deindividuation and
testosterone. Therefore this theory only gives us a limited understanding of the
causes of aggression.


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