The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) address three types of aggression: frustrative non-reward, defensive aggression and offensive/proactive aggression. This review sought to present the evidence for genetic underpinnings of aggression and to determine to what degree prior studies have examined phenotypes that fit into the RDoC framework. Although the constructs of defensive and offensive aggression have been widely used in the animal genetics literature, the human literature is mostly agnostic with regard to all the RDoC constructs. We know from twin studies that about half the variance in behavior may be explained by genetic risk factors. This is true for both dimensional, trait-like, measures of aggression and categorical definitions of psychopathology. The non-shared environment seems to have a moderate influence with the effects of shared environment being unclear. Human molecular genetic studies of aggression are in an early stage. The most promising candidates are in the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems along with hormonal regulators. Genome-wide association studies have not yet achieved genome-wide significance, but current samples are too small to detect variants having the small effects one would expect for a complex disorder. The strongest molecular evidence for a genetic basis for aggression comes from animal models comparing aggressive and non-aggressive strains or documenting the effects of gene knockouts. Although we have learned much from these prior studies, future studies should improve the measurement of aggression by using a systematic method of measurement such as that proposed by the RDoC initiative.
Keywords: GWAS; aggression; candidate genes; genetics; mutations; twin.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.