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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Nov;1086:134-43.

Psychological, neuroimaging, and biochemical studies on functional association between impulsive behavior and the 5-HT2A receptor gene polymorphism in humans.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Tokai Women's University, Nakakirino-cho, Kakamigahara, Gifu 504-8511, Japan.


It has been suggested that impulsive behavior is caused by dysfunctional serotonergic 5-HT neurotransmission in the central nervous system (CNS). Brain neuroimaging studies have shown that behavioral inhibition is linked to the activation of cortex sites such as the ventral frontal cortex. Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with [(18)F]altanserin to characterize 5-HT(2A) receptor binding revealed a reduction in 5-HT(2A) binding in the ventral frontal cortex in women who had recovered from impulsive diseases. These clinical, neuroimaging, and pharmacological studies appear to support the hypothesis that functional alteration of neurotransmission due to genetic polymorphisms of the 5-HT receptors may be involved in impulsive behavior modulation. Following evaluation by a self-reporting measure, it was proposed that a polymorphism in the promoter of the 5-HT(2A) receptor gene is the underlying cause of impulsive behavior; however, this hypothesis is not convincing. We examined whether the polymorphism in the 5-HT(2A) receptor gene promoter is involved in impulsive aggression by evaluating a behavioral task (Go/No-go task) in normal volunteers. The polymorphism of the 5-HT(2A) receptor gene promoter in lymphocytes from 71 volunteers was analyzed by using PCR. Impulsivity was defined as the number of commission errors (responding when one should not) recorded during a Go/No-go task; a larger number of commission errors indicate greater difficulty in inhibiting impulsive behavior. The subjects of the A-1438A allele group for the 5-HT(2A) receptor gene made more commission errors under the punishment-reward (PR)condition in a Go/No-go task than those in the G-1438G group. In the present review, we discuss and suggest the possible involvement of the A-1438A polymorphism of the 5HT2A receptor gene promoter in impulsive behavior. This hypothesis was evaluated by using a behavioral task measure that could directly reveal impulsive behavioral traits in humans.

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