The behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia are common, distressing to carers, and directly linked to the requirement for institutional care. Symptoms of aggression and agitation are particularly difficult for carers to tolerate. The origin of these features is unclear although genetic and environmental modification of pre-frontal serotonergic circuitry which regulates the control of negative emotions is proposed. Following the suggestion that the A218C intronic polymorphism of the tryptophan hydroxylase gene influences aggression and anger in non-demented individuals, we tested the influence of A218C on symptoms of agitation/aggression in 396 Alzheimer's disease patients using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Overall, 50% of participants experienced agitation/aggression in the month prior to interview. It was observed that male patients with a history of agitation/aggression were more likely to possess C-containing genotypes (P = 0.044, OR = 1.65, CI = 0.98-2.76). We conclude that aggression in male subjects with Alzheimer's disease may be genetically linked to polymorphic variation at the tryptophan hydroxylase gene.
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