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Are You Impulsive? Blame Your Genes!

Are you one to make decisions impulsively? Or, one with the propensity to choose a readily-available smaller reward over a larger one that will only be obtained in the future? If so, blame your genes!


Impulsiveness might just be an inherited trait for some people, as per a new report presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology this week.

A team of researchers led by Dr Andrey Anokhin delved deeper into the causes of “delay discounting” which is defined as the tendency to go for a smaller reward that can be obtained immediately instead of taking a bigger one that will be given in the future.

They analysed the genes of 602 twins – and their coded proteins – that are said to express this trait.

The results indicate that age matters to some extent: delay discounting improves gradually when teenagers grow older. Ultimately, young adults are better able to show patience for the larger delayed reward. Furthermore, around 50 % of the difference among the participants as to their level of delay discounting were ascribed to their genes.

Dr Anokhin explains that several genes might be influencing delay discounting – the ‘impulsivity genes’. These genes might be coding for enzymes involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitter serotonin and its receptors found in the brain.

The study could be pertinent to the understanding of psychiatric disorders entailing conditions characterised by impulsiveness/ impulsive decision-making. The findings might perhaps pave the way to new treatments for addictions, for example. However, Dr Anokhin remains cautious and instead says that it is too early for the speculation to be translated into clinical application.


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