Rationale: The role of serotonin in human aggression and impulsivity was evaluated by administering paroxetine or placebo for 3 weeks and comparing the effects on laboratory measures of aggression and impulsivity among male subjects with a history of conduct disorder.
Methods: Twelve male subjects with a history of criminal behavior participated in experimental sessions, which measured aggressive and impulsive responses. Six subjects were assigned to placebo treatment and six subjects to placebo and paroxetine treatment. Aggression was measured using the point subtraction aggression paradigm (PSAP), which provides subjects with an aggressive and monetary reinforced response options. Impulsive responses were measured using a paradigm that gives subjects choices between small rewards after short delays versus larger rewards after longer delays.
Results: Chronic administration of paroxetine (20 mg/day) for 21 days produced significant decreases in impulsive responses. Decreases in aggressive responses were evident only at the end of paroxetine treatment. Decreases in impulsive and aggressive responses could not be attributed to a non-specific sedative action because monetary reinforced responses were not decreased as has been observed following CNS sedation.
Conclusions: Inhibition of serotonin reuptake by paroxetine is the possible mechanism for reductions in aggressive and impulsive responses. These results support other data linking serotonin function and aggression and impulsivity.