Stupidly Aggressive Monkeys & Kids

Not me.

As the car-less out-of-state college student that I am, I take the bus everywhere. This past summer, I commuted at ungodly times on my way home from the restaurant I worked at. So I’d be riding at around 11 o’clock at night. This meant I either had a lot of cupcakes to frost, too many sesame buns to butter, or I just didn’t grate those six quarts of parmesan cheese fast enough. Life was tough (at the time), and I’d be home by midnight. The real focus of my anecdote is not my own struggle, but rather, the people who surrounded me on the bus.

First, let me ask you — what makes young rhesus macaque male monkeys stupidly aggressive? If you’ve ever been roaming in a wild colony of rhesus macaques, you’ll know that the young males who take risks are more likely to die sooner than most [1]. Risk-taking behavior includes leaping from trees at absurd heights of more than 25 feet and picking fights they’re likely to lose, often with larger and more mature monkeys. So what’s with these young males?

Researchers analyzed samples of the monkeys’ cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and found that low levels of serotonergic activity contributed to stupidly aggressive behavior. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, probably most known for its role in mood regulation for depression (e.g. Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor — SSRI). The evidence with the monkey colony, however, illustrates serotonin’s use for inhibiting aggression.

Back to the bus.

Here I was, curled up against the wall of the metro. I even had my hood on, since it was raining that day. My clothes were baggy, and I was a picture of a solitary loner.

Then these kids get on the train, rough housing and yelling loudly. The bus is crowded, and I squash myself against the wall further as one kid takes the seat next to me. He’s particularly loud, particularly all over the place and invading my personal space.

He kicks one of the girls with him, and I speak up.

“That’s not nice. It’s not nice to kick people.”

He seems to ignore me, and before I know it, the entire group is off the train and running to their next stop.

So I think to myself, if this kid is always this aggressive, he’s going to get himself in trouble in one day. He might not pick on his ‘friend’ next time — maybe he’ll be stupidly aggressive, like the monkeys. I hope not though.

This also makes me think — what if each kid could be tested for serotonin deficiency when they entered elementary school? Maybe meds aren’t always the best option, but for some people, they can be.


[1] Howell, S., Westergaard, G., Hoos, B., Chavanne, T. J., Shoaf, S. E., Cleveland, A., Snoy, P. J., Suomi, S. J. and Dee Higley, J. (2007), Serotonergic influences on life-history outcomes in free-ranging male rhesus macaques. Am. J. Primatol., 69: 851–865. doi:10.1002/ajp.20369