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Unformatted text preview: Genetic aspects of pathological gambling: a complex disorder with shared genetic vulnerabilities Daniela S. S. Lobo & James L. Kennedy Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Neurogenetics Laboratory, University of Toronto,Toronto, Canada ABSTRACT Aims To summarize and discuss findings from genetic studies conducted on pathological gambling (PG). Methods Searches were conducted on PubMed and PsychInfo databases using the keywords: gambling and genes, gambling and family and gambling and genetics, yielding 18 original research articles investigating the genetics of PG. Results Twin studies using the Vietnam Era Twin Registry have found that: (i) the heritability of PG is estimated to be 5060%; (ii) PG and subclinical PG are a continuum of the same disorder; (iii) PG shares genetic vulnerability factors with antisocial behaviours, alcohol dependence and major depressive disorder; (iv) genetic factors underlie the asso- ciation between exposure to traumatic life-events and PG. Molecular genetic investigations on PG are at an early stage and published studies have reported associations with genes involved in the brains reward and impulse control systems. Conclusions Despite the paucity of studies in this area, published studies have provided considerable evi- dence of the influence of genetic factors on PG and its complex interaction with other psychiatric disorders and environmental factors. The next step would be to investigate the association and interaction of these variables in larger molecular genetic studies with subphenotypes that underlie PG. Results from family and genetic investigations cor- roborate further the importance of understanding the biological underpinnings of PG in the development of more specific treatment and prevention strategies. Keywords Addiction, genetics, molecular genetics, pathological gambling. Correspondence to: Daniela S. S. Lobo, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 250 College Street, R 30, M5T1R8, Toronto, ON, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Submitted 29 September 2008; initial review completed 7 January 2009; final version accepted 29 April 2009 INTRODUCTION It is estimated that 86% of the adult US population has gambled at least once in their lives . Most people who gamble do not develop a gambling problem; however, a fraction of these individuals will escalate gradually to larger bets and greater risks. The DSM-IV criteria require the presence of at least five out of 10 symptoms for a diagnosis of pathological gambling (PG). However, as noted earlier, it is very common that individuals who do not fulfill the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for PG also expe- rience problems due to their gambling behaviour. These individuals usually present a minimum of one and a maximum of four DSM-IV criteria for PG and are usually referred to as presenting problem gambling or subclinical PG. In the course of this review, studies referring to both problem and pathological gambling are referred to as...
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