Being impulsive can lead us to say things we regret, buy things we really don't need, engage in behaviors that are risky and even develop troublesome addictions. But are different kinds of hastiness and rashness embedded in our DNA?
A new study suggests the answer is yes -- especially if you're a man.
The research, led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln assistant professor of psychology Scott Stoltenberg, found links between impulsivity and a rarely researched gene called NRXN3. The gene plays an important role in brain development and in how neurons function.
The newly discovered connection, which was more prevalent among men than women in the study, may help explain certain inclinations toward alcohol or drug dependence, Stoltenberg said.
"Impulsivity is an important underlying mechanism in addiction," he said. "Our finding that NRXN3 is part of the causal pathway toward addiction is an important step in identifying the underlying genetic architecture of this key personality trait."
For the study, researchers measured impulsivity levels in nearly 450 participants -- 65 percent women, 35 percent men -- via a wide range of tests. Then, they compared those results with DNA samples from each participant. They found that impulsivity was significantly higher in those who regularly used tobacco or who had alcohol or drug problems.
The results, interestingly, also came down along gender lines. In men, two connections clearly emerged; first, between a particular form of the NRXN3 gene and attentional impulsivity, and second, between another NRXN3 variant and alcohol problems. The connections for women, meanwhile, were much weaker.
Stoltenberg said the gender-specific results are a rich area for further study.
"We can't really say what causes these patterns of association to be different in men and women. But our findings will be critical as we continue to improve our understanding of the pathways from specific genes to health-risk behaviors," he said.
The researchers were interested in impulsivity because the trait can predispose people to any number of behavioral problems -- addictions, behavior control, failing to plan ahead or think through consequences of actions -- and settled on the role of NXRN3 from previous, recent studies.
While the results add important new evidence to the genetic role in impulsivity and, in turn, its role in substance abuse, researchers were careful to not claim a perfect cause-and-effect relationship. Impulsivity may interact with sensitivity to alcohol, for one example, or anxiety, for another, to create complex pathways to substance use problems in both men and women.
"If you're working to explain how genes are associated with something like (substance) dependence, you have to connect a lot of dots," Stoltenberg said. "There's a big gap between genes and a substance use disorder. Impulsivity is one factor to such problems -- not the only factor."
The study, which appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was authored by UNL's Stoltenberg; Melissa Lehmann of Black Hills State (S.D.) University; Christa C. Christ of UNL; and Samantha Hersrud and Gareth Davies of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine.
Scott Stoltenberg | EurekAlert!
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine