American researchers have published new findings further validating the notion that genetics plays a role in gambling addictions. Scientists out of Northwestern University recently announced they have identified specific DNA structures that show a higher probability of inciting addictive tendencies, including addictions to online gambling. Ultimately helping scientists get closer to identifying the specific genetic mechanisms that influence human behavior, the results of the study will invariably lead to helping prevent problem gambling addictions before they start.
Specifically, two genes have been identified for playing a role in developing addictions. One of these genes is linked with regulating dopamine, while the other is involved with serotonin neurotransmission. Both neurotransmitters play a major role in the functioning of the brain. Dopamine specifically has a major impact on motor activity, cognition and behavior, while serotonin players a vital role in the regulation of mood, anger, aggression, sleep and sexuality to name just a few.
Recent advancements in understanding how these two genes impact the decision making process, as well as improvements in the methodologies of neuroscience, were helpful in the success of the study.
Participants in the study were made up of Northwestern University students, who were given real funds for making investments. Those who showed similar DNA structures were generally inclined to wager more money in riskier situations where the expected return was high. On the contrary, these same people were generally inclined to wager less money if the expected return was low - despite the bet being a safer wager.
Researchers were quick to point out that more research is still needed to better fully understand risk-taking behavior's. It is said that genetics accounts for less than 30% of risk taking behavior, while the remaining 70% comes from experience and upbringing. And while the study was intended to explain risk-taking in the financial investment world, many of the findings can be correlated to casino gambling activities.