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Mol Psychiatry. 2003 Oct;8(10):840-52.

Genetics of personality: are we making progress?

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB8), University of Antwerp (UIA), Antwerpen, Belgium.


For centuries, scientists are intrigued by the differences in personality between individuals. As early as in the ancient Greek civilization, people tried to formulate theories to systematize this diversity. With the increased interest in behavior genetics, personality was also considered a challenging phenotype. From the early start, studies suggested a heritable component in personality. After the successes of molecular genetic studies in unraveling the genetic basis of (mostly) monogenic diseases, the focus shifted towards complex traits, including psychiatric disorders. It was observed in several studies that personality measures differed between patients with psychiatric disorders and healthy controls. Therefore, normal personality was considered a viable endophenotype in the search for genes involved in psychiatric disorders such as affective disorders, ADHD and substance dependence. Genes that were to be found in studies on personality could be candidate genes for particular psychiatric disorders. In the course of time, however the study of genes for personality turned out to be at least as hard as the search for genes involved in other complex disorders. In this review, past studies, present problems and future directions concerning the study of personality genetics are discussed.

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