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Behav Brain Res. 2003 Feb 17;139(1-2):1-20.

Toward a molecular architecture of personality.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Wuerzburg, F├╝chsleinstr. 15, 97080, Wuerzburg, Germany.


Epidemiological studies provided a large body of evidence that personality dimensions are influenced by genetic factors and that the genetic component is highly complex, polygenic, and epistatic. However, consistent findings on the genetic basis of personality have yet remained sparse. In recent years, molecular genetics has begun to identify specific genes coding in particular for components of the serotonergic and dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems representing quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for behavioral traits. The QTL concept suggests that complex traits are not attributable to single genes. According to this polygenic model, the genetic basis of personality and behavior and its pathological variations thus results from additive or nonadditive interactions of various genes. As the number of suitable candidate genes constantly increases, the QTL model provides a reasonable explanation for the genetic basis of personality and its disorders. In this review, the current knowledge on the impact of a large number of candidate gene polymorphisms (e.g. variations in serotonin and dopamine receptor and serotonin transporter genes) on personality and temperament is summarized. Additionally, investigations of gene-gene and gene-environment interactions in humans and animals, which currently intensify the identification of genes that underlie behavioral variations, are examined. The findings converge on the notion that a probabilistic rather than deterministic impact of genes on the expression of behavior will contribute to the demystification of behavioral disorders.

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