OPRM1, Serotonin, Alcohol, Aggression, Macaque, Genetic


Although the notion that alcohol promotes violence is widespread, not all individuals are aggressive while intoxicated. Genetic variation could be a contributing factor to individual differences in alcohol-heightened aggression. The present study examines the effects of OPRM1C77G genotype on responses to threat in rhesus macaques under normal conditions and following alcohol administration. Prior studies have shown that a low CSF level of 5-HIAA is a trait marker for individuals prone to escalated aggression. We wanted to examine whether the predictive value for this marker on aggression was moderated by OPRM1 genotype. Animals were administered alcohol (BAC 100-200 mg%), were provoked by a human intruder, and aggressive responses were recorded. Factor analysis was performed to generate aggressive response factors, which were then used as dependent variables for ANOVA, with OPRM1 genotype and CSF 5- HIAA as independent variables. Factor analysis generated three factors (“Threatening”, “Distance Decreasing” and “High Intensity”). We found that High Intensity aggression was increased among carriers of the OPRM1 G allele, especially among individuals with low CSF levels of 5-HIAA. Aggression in the non-intoxicated state was predicted by 5-HIAA, but not by genotype. This study demonstrates that OPRM1 genotype predicts alcohol-heightened aggression in rhesus macaques with low CSF levels of 5-HIAA. Since OPRM1 variation predicts similar effects on alcohol response and behavior in humans and macaques, this study could suggest a role for OPRM1 genotype in alcohol-heightened aggression in humans. If so, it may be that compounds that block this receptor could reduce alcohol-associated violence in selected patient populations.

Original Publication Citation

Driscoll, C. A., Lindell, S. G., Schwandt, M. L., Suomi, S. J., Higley, J. D., Heilig, M., et al. (2016). OPRM1 genotype interacts with serotonin system dysfunction to predict alcohol-heightened aggression in primates. Addict. Biol. 22, 1655–1664. doi: 10.1111/adb.12428

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date





Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

Included in

Psychology Commons