Researchers have identified a genetic link between impulsivity and a predisposition to engage in risky behaviors


Impulsiveness and substance use share a genetic basis, according to genome-wide association studies published in Journal of Neuroscience by academic and industry researchers.

With more than 20,000 participants, the research represents the largest genetic analysis of impulsive personality traits to date.

Dr. Abraham Palmer and colleagues compared genetic data with self-reported impulsive personality traits and history of drug experimentation from a large sample of older adults of European ancestry participating in personal genetics company 23andMe’s research program.

The researchers identified an association between variants in the gene CADM2 — previously implicated in risky preference, alcohol consumption, and cannabis use — and sensation seeking and drug experimentation history.

They also identified an association between a gene previously implicated in schizophrenia risk (CACNA1I) and negative urgency — a tendency to act impulsively in the face of adversity.

These findings demonstrate how an individual’s genetic makeup may predispose them to engage in risky behavior, including drug use and, potentially, misuse.

Additional studies of younger and more diverse populations could provide additional insights into the genetics and consequences of impulsive personality traits.

Manhattan plot of GWAS results indicating the strongest associations between the 22 autosomes, X chromosome, and UPPSP negative urgency.
Image is credited to Sanchez-Roige et al., JNeurosci (2019).

Funding: The research was funded by the Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research, NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse, University of California San Diego, California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.

Source: David Barnstone – SfN
Original Research: Abstract for “Genome-wide association studies of impulsive personality traits (BIS-11 and UPPSP) and drug experimentation in up to 22,861 adult research participants identify loci in the CACNA1I and CADM2 genes” by Sandra Sanchez-Roige, Pierre Fontanillas, Sarah L. Elson, Joshua C. Gray, Harriet de Wit, James MacKillop and Abraham A. Palmer in Journal of Neuroscience. Published February 4 2019.


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