Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Genetic contributions to financial risk taking

Having just done a post on brain changes on aging that increase financial risk taking I thought it appropriate to follow up with another article I came across from Cri┼čan et al. who link genetic changes in a serotonin transporter to social learning of fear and economic decision making. Their abstract:
Serotonin (5-HT) modulates emotional and cognitive functions such as fear conditioning (FC) and decision making. This study investigated the effects of a functional polymorphism in the regulatory region (5-HTTLPR) of the human 5-HT transporter (5-HTT) gene on observational FC, risk taking and susceptibility to framing in decision making under uncertainty, as well as multidimensional anxiety and autonomic control of the heart in healthy volunteers. The present results indicate that in comparison to the homozygotes for the long (l) version of 5-HTTLPR, the carriers of the short (s) version display enhanced observational FC, reduced financial risk taking and increased susceptibility to framing in economic decision making. We also found that s-carriers have increased trait anxiety due to threat in social evaluation, and ambiguous threat perception. In addition, s-carriers also show reduced autonomic control over the heart, and a pattern of reduced vagal tone and increased sympathetic activity in comparison to l-homozygotes. This is the first genetic study that identifies the association of a functional polymorphism in a key neurotransmitter-related gene with complex social–emotional and cognitive processes. The present set of results suggests an endophenotype of anxiety disorders, characterized by enhanced social learning of fear, impaired decision making and dysfunctional autonomic activity.

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