Financial and Psychological Risk Attitudes Associated with Two Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in the Nicotine Receptor (CHRNA4) Gene
PLoS ONE, Vol. 4, No. 8, e6704, B.E. Roe, M.R. Tilley, H.H. Gu, D.Q. Beversdorf, W. Sadee, et. al., 2009
Posted: 22 Aug 2009
Date Written: August 20, 2009
With recent advances in understanding of the neuroscience of risk taking, attention is now turning to genetic factors that may contribute to individual heterogeneity in risk attitudes. In this paper we test for genetic associations with risk attitude measures derived from both the psychology and economics literature. To develop a long-term prospective study, we first evaluate both types of risk attitudes and find that the economic and psychological measures are poorly correlated, suggesting that different genetic factors may underlie human response to risk faced in different behavioral domains. We then examine polymorphisms in a spectrum of candidate genes that affect neurotransmitter systems influencing dopamine regulation or are thought to be associated with risk attitudes or impulsive disorders. Analysis of the genotyping data identified two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene encoding the alpha 4 nicotine receptor (CHRNA4, rs4603829 and rs4522666) that are significantly associated with harm avoidance, a risk attitude measurement drawn from the psychology literature. Novelty seeking, another risk attitude measure from the psychology literature, is associated with several COMT (catechol-O-methyl transferase) SNPs while economic risk attitude measures are associated with several VMAT2 (vesicular monoamine transporter) SNPs, but the significance of these associations did not withstand statistical adjustment for multiple testing and requires larger cohorts. These exploratory results provide a starting point for understanding the genetic basis of risk attitudes by considering the range of methods available for measuring risk attitudes and by searching beyond the traditional direct focus on dopamine and serotonin receptor and transporter genes.
Keywords: risk attitudes, genetics, novelty seeking, harm avoidance, nicotine receptor, neuroeconomics
JEL Classification: C91, D81, D87
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation