Study Links Boorish Drunken Behavior To Gene Mutation

By McCarton Ackerman 11/24/15

An uncommon genetic mutation could be the cause of aggressive behavior and poor impulse control.

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Anyone who behaves belligerently while drunk can take comfort in a new study published in the latest issue of the journal Transitional Psychiatry, which chalks this behavior up to a genetic mutation.

Researchers in Finland, led by University of Helsinki psychiatry professor Roope Tikkanen, noted that over 100,000 of the country’s residents—roughly 2.2% of the population—suffer from a serotonin 2B receptor gene mutation, which is broadly associated with poor impulse control and aggressive behaviors. For the study, they assessed personality questionnaires and both aggression and alcoholism screening tests for 14 people carrying the gene, in addition to 156 non-carriers.

Their findings showed that those with the serotonin 2B receptor gene mutation “demonstrated aggressive outbursts, got into fights and behaved in an impulsive manner under the influence of alcohol. They were also arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol more often than the controls.” The scientists noted that the carriers of this gene weren’t diagnosed as alcoholics, but they had a tendency to lose behavioral control while under the influence of alcohol.

Tikkanen and his team also noted other personality traits in these gene carriers, including anxiety, fear of uncertainty, attachment issues, and a low interest in activities involving exploration. However, Tikkanen also acknowledged that their findings could be skewed due to a small sample size and that half of the mutation group was comprised of female relatives of violent offenders.

"The impact of one gene on complex phenomena is typically minor," said Tikkanen. "But it is possible to identify the impact of such a genetic mutation in the Finnish population, as our historical isolation has led to a relatively homogenous gene pool."

A separate study, published in 2013 in the journal Nature Communications, linked gene mutation to alcoholism. The findings, released jointly by five British universities, confirmed that the gene Gabrb1 regulates alcohol consumption, but can lead to a drinking problem when that gene is faulty.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.