Posted on November 21, 2011

Gene Variants May Factor into Impulsivity, Substance Abuse

Rick Nauert, Psych Central, November 17, 2011

Researchers believe genetics can influence impulsivity and other forms of risky behavior, especially among males–a link supported by a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Dr. Scott Stoltenberg, an assistant professor in the Psychology Department, found links between impulsivity and a rarely researched gene called NRXN3. The gene plays an important role in brain development and in how neurons function.

The newly discovered connection, which was more prevalent among men than women in the study, may help explain certain inclinations toward alcohol or drug dependence, Stoltenberg said.


During the investigation, researchers measured impulsivity levels in nearly 450 participants–65 percent women, 35 percent men. They then compared the findings with DNA samples from each participant.

Researchers discovered impulsivity was significantly higher in those who regularly used tobacco or who had alcohol or drug problems. They also discovered that gender played a role.

In men, two connections clearly emerged; first, between a particular form of the NRXN3 gene and attentional impulsivity, and second, between another NRXN3 variant and alcohol problems.

The connections for women, meanwhile, were much weaker.


However, researchers were careful to point out that this is not a perfect cause-and-effect relationship. That is, impulsivity alone may not cause substance abuse. However, impulsivity may interact with sensitivity to alcohol, for one example, or anxiety, for another, to create complex pathways to substance use problems in both men and women.


3 responses to “Gene Variants May Factor into Impulsivity, Substance Abuse”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I can’t imagine anyone being surprised by these findings. It’s amusing when “science” finally catches up to hundreds of years of preexisting common sense knowledge. I’d love to see a racial breakdown, but for some reason I can’t see anyone publishing the results. “Study finds that blacks and hispanics are genetically more prone to becoming low-impulse criminals and drug abusers.” Why do I not see that happening…ever.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think there are stories missing from the archives. Looking through the news categories archive there seems to be many missing stories after November 14.

  3. sheila says:

    Thanks for identifying this gene…it has been established in the medical community that *impulsivity* has a strong corrolation to suicide, especially in teens…I noted long a go that black suicide rates are lower than whites…another gene thing? Yet, I believe *impulsitivity* is a much greater trait in black (students I have observed) Americans

    …could it be that blacks have or experience greater frustration than whites, yet despair at a lesser level than whites?

    If so then could it be that blacks in America have more HOPE than Whites in America?

    Wouldn’t that make sense considering black Americans have many organizations and government sponsored programs that OFFER them more or greater hope for a better future? Thus, less reason for complete despair which leads to sucide?

    White Americans have no government backed programs to lessen their despair, to raise their hopes…in fact present society assumes the White Race must live up to their responsibilty to destroy themselves in order to bring on a better world for the rest of the races on earth!

    In point of fact, White Americans (the entire WHITE RACE)must admit their COLLECTIVE historical guilt for exploiting the rest of the humans of the earth for profit and commit collective suicide (see HARVARD’S DESTROY THE WHITE RACE philosophy) in order to save the world!

    If so, then nothing less than we deserve.