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Genetic study of impulsiveness reveals associations with psychiatric disorders

Largest-ever genetic analysis of impulsive personality traits shows how an individual's genetic makeup may predispose them to engage in risky behavior

Society for Neuroscience


IMAGE: Figure 2. Manhattan plot of GWAS results indicating the strongest associations between the 22 autosomes, X chromosome, and UPPSP negative urgency. view more 

Credit: Sanchez-Roige et al., JNeurosci (2019)

Impulsiveness and substance use share a genetic basis, according to genome-wide association studies published in JNeurosci 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.


Article: 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*


Corresponding author: Abraham A. Palmer, Ph.D. (University of California San Diego, USA),

*A preprint of this manuscript has been posed on bioRxiv:

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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