Science

Non-aggression gene identified – Sciences et Avenir

What cerebral mechanisms are activated to convince a person that it is time to stop fighting and end the fight with the opponent? Because if the stimuli that cause aggressive behavior are well studied, and this is in different types of animals and over decades, then it is not the same with those that lead to a de-escalation of violence. However, the question arises: is there a neural or genetic switch, analogous to satiety to hunger, that would signal the body that it is time to stop curling the bun? A group of American and Japanese researchers set out to find such genes. She publishes her results in the September 7, 2022 Science Advances publication.

Because it is known that, in general, animals regulate their aggressiveness, recognizing the costs and benefits of violent interaction with their relatives. A person must defend his point of view, not reaching the point where confrontation can physically harm him and, for example, undermine his reproductive potential and make him less competitive because he is reduced. It is clear that he should be able to start de-escalating when the fight is no longer worth continuing.

A gene that allows you to not be completely “blinded by your violence”.

Scientists have pinpointed a gene that appears to be essential for this process: nervous. To do this, they put several fruit flies in competition, in which certain genes were deactivated. They measured people’s aggressiveness by counting the time they took a typical attacking posture, throwing their body forward. This experiment showed them that the most aggressive flies were those that had the neural gene (nvy) inactivated. On average, the researchers counted about thirty attack postures per minute. This is a hundred times more than in an individual with a defect in another gene.

To understand why he could be involved in such behavior, researchers are currently limited to hypotheses. Indeed, the nvy gene is a so-called transcriptional repressor and acts at different levels. Therefore, he is not directly involved in the decision to end the violence. They suspect that nvy itself affects other neuronal genes, especially those responsible for the animal’s sociability. When the field is functional, the social experience of the individual, his perception of the surrounding world, as it were, was reduced to moderation, weakening, struggle. In this way, Nvy allows the animal not to be completely “blinded by its violence”.

A Path to a Better Understanding of Pathologies Like Alzheimer’s Disease

Clearly, there is a world from Drosophila to humans, but the researchers suspect that, given the importance of the mechanism for an individual’s survival, the molecular basis of aggression may have much in common between the two species. The next step in this work is to more precisely identify the groups of neurons responsible for deescalation.

In addition to the fundamental aspect of the discovery, this work may open the way to a better understanding and treatment of certain pathologies. For example, Alzheimer’s disease, in which the patient sometimes shows changes in behavior, leading to outbreaks of aggression.

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