Is low platelet MAO activity associated with antisocial behavior? Evidence from representative samples of longitudinally observed birth cohorts


Lower platelet monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity has been associated with problem behaviors, including criminal behavior, but not all studies agree. We have examined platelet MAO activity and antisocial behavior involving police contact in a longitudinal birth cohort study. The sample included both birth cohorts (original n = 1238) of the Estonian Children Personality Behavior and Health Study. Platelet MAO activity was measured at ages 15, 18 and 25 radioenzymatically with ß-phenylethylamine as the substrate. Police contacts were self-reported in an interview and drug use in a questionnaire filled in during a laboratory visit. In cross-sectional analyses, males with the record of antisocial behavior had lower platelet MAO activity. In longitudinal mixed-effect regression models, this association was found to be independent of smoking. Furthermore, including smoking in the model revealed lower platelet MAO activity also in females with past antisocial behaviour. A further exploratory regression analysis with antisocial behavior at two levels of frequency and consideration of self-reported use of illicit drugs either in a single occasion or repeatedly demonstrated some "dose-dependency" in the relationship of antisocial behavior and platelet MAO activity. Platelet MAO activity was lower in male but not female subjects with basic education level as compared to secondary and higher education, but it was not related to non-verbal intelligence. Neither was platelet MAO activity associated with socio- economic status. In conclusion, antisocial behavior as occurring in general population is associated with low platelet MAO activity that probably reflects low capacity of the serotonergic system.



Platelet monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity, antisocial behavior, serotonin, longitudinal, birth cohort, gender