Genetic contributions to social impulsivity and aggressiveness in vervet monkeys

Lynn A. Fairbanks, Timothy K. Newman, Julia N. Bailey, Matthew J. Jorgensen, Sherry E. Breidenthal, Roel A. Ophoff, Anthony G. Comuzzie, Lisa J. Martin, Jeffrey Rogers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    87 Scopus citations


    Background Impulsivity contributes to multiple psychiatric disorders and sociobehavioral problems, and the more serious consequences of impulsivity are typically manifest in social situations. This study assessed the genetic contribution to impulsivity and aggressiveness in a social context using a nonhuman primate model. Methods Subjects were 352 adolescent and adult vervet monkeys from an extended multigenerational pedigree. Behavior was assessed in the Intruder Challenge Test, a standardized test that measures impulsivity and aggressiveness toward a stranger. Genetic and maternal contributions to variation in the Social Impulsivity Index and its two subscales, impulsive approach and aggression, were estimated using variance components analyses. Results The results found significant genetic contributions to social impulsivity (h 2 = .35 ± .11) and to each of the subscales, with no significant influence of maternal environment. There was a high genetic correlation between the impulsive approach and aggression subscales (rho = .78 ± .12). Conclusions This is the first study to demonstrate heritability of social impulsivity in adolescents and adults for any nonhuman primate species. The high genetic correlation suggests the same genes may influence variation in both impulsive approach and aggression. These results provide a promising basis for identification of susceptibility loci for impulsivity and aggressiveness.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)642-647
    Number of pages6
    JournalBiological Psychiatry
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Mar 15 2004


    • Aggressiveness
    • Genetic
    • Heritability
    • Impulsivity
    • Nonhuman primate
    • Personality

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biological Psychiatry


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