April 23, 2009

Study Finds Genetic Link to Impulsive Behavior

Many previous studies have shown that alcoholics and drug addicts tend to exhibit highly impulsive behavior. A new study involving mice found that genes influence impulsive behavior, which could contribute to the risk for developing such an addiction.

In the study, researchers used selective breeding to obtain mice genetically predisposed to drink alcohol. Scientists found that mice that had the genes to drink were more impulsive than their low-drinking counterparts.

"Our data suggests that impulsivity contributes to high alcohol drinking and, consequently, the diagnosis of any disorder associated with life-long impulsivity -- for example, [antisocial personality disorder], bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and attention-deficit disorder -- is grounds for serious concern about later problems with alcoholism and drug abuse, which can aggravate the severity of the disorders I just mentioned," Nicholas J. Grahame, associate professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis was quoted as saying.

Researchers said identifying children or adolescents with high levels of impulsivity might, in theory, allow doctors to identify those at risk for developing a substance-abuse disorder.

The study's authors said now that their findings have suggested a genetic component to impulsive behavior, future studies could shed light on which genes are important in impulsive decision making and which genes are shared with the propensity to develop a substance-use disorder.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, July 2009