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Genetic influences on impulsivity, risk taking, stress responsivity and vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction


Genetic variation may partially underlie complex personality and physiological traits—such as impulsivity, risk taking and stress responsivity—as well as a substantial proportion of vulnerability to addictive diseases. Furthermore, personality and physiological traits themselves may differentially affect the various stages of addiction, defined chronologically as initiation of drug use, regular drug use, addiction/dependence and potentially relapse. Here we focus on recent approaches to the study of genetic variation in these personality and physiological traits, and their influence on and interaction with addictive diseases.

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This work was supported in part by US National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH-NIDA) Research Scientist Award Grant K05-DA00049; NIH-NIDA Research Center Grant P60-DA05130; NIH-GCRC General Research Center Grant MOI-RR00102; and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS). Thanks to K. Lavoie for assistance in the preparation of this manuscript.

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Figure 1: Diverse contribution of genetic influences to initial drug use, abuse and addiction.
Figure 2: Stress causes increased mRNA synthesis and release of hypothalamic corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) into the portal circulation, which acts on CRFR1 receptors in the anterior pituitary.