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Scientia Salon

Monoamine_oxidase_A_2BXSby Alondra Oubré

MAOA — Genetic culprit for violence?

Theories about inborn race-based aggression, violence, and criminality are back in the news [1]. In the ongoing search for genes underlying social behavior, none has sparked more curiosity, if not controversy, than the gene that codes for monoamine oxidase A — MAOA [2, 3, 4]. Nicknamed the “warrior gene,” a variant of the MAOA drew international attention nearly a decade ago when geneticist Rod Lea reported that it was more common in Maori — the indigenous Polynesians of New Zealand — than in whites [2]. According to one journalist, Lea suggested this gene might be the source of poor health and increased rates of violent crime in Maori [5]. The media frenzy over “bad genes causing bad behavior” didn’t stop there. A rare, seemingly even more detrimental version — the “extreme warrior gene” — has since stirred debate because it occurs…

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