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Behav Genet. 2013 Mar;43(2):97-107. doi: 10.1007/s10519-013-9584-z. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

Three mutually informative ways to understand the genetic relationships among behavioral disinhibition, alcohol use, drug use, nicotine use/dependence, and their co-occurrence: twin biometry, GCTA, and genome-wide scoring.

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  • 1Center for Statistical Genetics, Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Behavioral disinhibition is a trait hypothesized to represent a general vulnerability to the development of substance use disorders. We used a large community-representative sample (N = 7,188) to investigate the genetic and environmental relationships among measures of behavioral disinhibition, Nicotine Use/Dependence, Alcohol Consumption, Alcohol Dependence, and Drug Use. First, using a subsample of twins (N = 2,877), we used standard twin models to estimate the additive genetic, shared environmental, and non-shared environmental contributions to these five traits. Heritabilities ranged from .42 to .58 and shared environmental effects ranged from .12 to .24. Phenotypic correlations among the five traits were largely attributable to shared genetic effects. Second, we used Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA) to estimate as a random effect the aggregate genetic effect attributable to 515,384 common SNPs. The aggregated SNPs explained 10-30 % of the variance in the traits. Third, a genome-wide scoring approach summed the actual SNPs, creating a SNP-based genetic risk score for each individual. After tenfold internal cross-validation, the SNP sumscore correlated with the traits at .03 to .07 (p < .05), indicating small but detectable effects. SNP sumscores generated on one trait correlated at approximately the same magnitude with other traits, indicating detectable pleiotropic effects among these traits. Behavioral disinhibition thus shares genetic etiology with measures of substance use, and this relationship is detectable at the level of measured genomic variation.

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