Summary. As we all know, genes control much of who we are, but can they make us criminals? Scientists now believe that there is one gene that is at least partially responsible for criminal behaviour. The gene that controls the production of monoamine oxidase A (MAO A) is the enzyme that breaks down excess amounts of certain neurotransmitters. Production of MAO A may be what causes, in part, a higher potential for criminal behaviour. In 1972, a study was conducted in New Zealand of 442 subjects. Some of which had a history of abuse or criminal tendencies. Researchers found that only 12% of the subjects had low MAO A levels and that 12% represented “half of their generation’s convictions for violent crimes in New Zealand.”
The National Center for Scientific Research in France did an experiment with mice. They turned off the gene that controlled MAO A encoding. “The animals exhibited fearless, impulsive behaviour.” The mice had neurotransmitter serotonin levels nine times above normal. In 1993, Harm G. Brunner found in a study of a family of Dutch criminals that they all had a defect in the gene that controls MAO A. This further explains why many criminals have high levels of serotonin. Just having low levels of MAO A does not automatically make someone a criminal. There are plenty of people that have normal lives with low levels of MAO A. The trigger it seems is abuse during childhood. However, abuse does not necessarily mean there will be low levels of MAO A.
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The combination leads to a very likely chance of criminal tendencies. Scientists speculate that high levels of MAO A may give a higher tolerance for abuse during childhood. “The genotype of high MAO A activity may promote trauma resistance,” says Terrie Moffet, a psychologist who worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Relevancy to Biology Class. Although we are not yet to the chapters that cover genetics, we will be covering those chapters shortly I presume. Also, I already have taken the advanced biology course my freshmen year which included a lot of study of genetics. Once we reach the chapter on genetics, which I have skimmed over, we will definitely be covering topics on how the MAO A genotype can affect criminal behaviour, most likely along with why it, by itself, does not necessarily make one have criminal tendencies.
Reason for Choosing. I have a subscription to the technology/science magazine, Popular Mechanics, along with Popular Science. I have always been interested in the sciences, and also have some interest in psychology, but wouldn’t want to pursue it professionally. I was reading the magazine and turned to this article which interested me and happened to be related to biology, simple as that.
1. Popular Mechanics “Criminal Genes” Paragraph 9, Lines 3-7
2. Popular Mechanics “Criminal Genes” Paragraph 4, Lines 5-8
3. Popular Mechanics “Criminal Genes” Paragraph 9, Lines 11-13
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