Discovery of biochemical biomarkers for aggression: A role for metabolomics in psychiatry

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2016 Jul;171(5):719-32. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32435. Epub 2016 Feb 23.


Human aggression encompasses a wide range of behaviors and is related to many psychiatric disorders. We introduce the different classification systems of aggression and related disorders as a basis for discussing biochemical biomarkers and then present an overview of studies in humans (published between 1990 and 2015) that reported statistically significant associations of biochemical biomarkers with aggression, DSM-IV disorders involving aggression, and their subtypes. The markers are of different types, including inflammation markers, neurotransmitters, lipoproteins, and hormones from various classes. Most studies focused on only a limited portfolio of biomarkers, frequently a specific class only. When integrating the data, it is clear that compounds from several biological pathways have been found to be associated with aggressive behavior, indicating complexity and the need for a broad approach. In the second part of the paper, using examples from the aggression literature and psychiatric metabolomics studies, we argue that a better understanding of aggression would benefit from a more holistic approach such as provided by metabolomics. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: aggression; biomarkers; metabolomics; psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / classification*
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Biomarkers
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Psychiatry


  • Biomarkers