Sensation-seeking genes and physical activity in youth


Corresponding author: A.V. Wilkinson, 1616 Guadalupe, Suite 6.300, Austin, TX 78701, USA. E-mail:


Many studies examining genetic influences on physical activity (PA) have evaluated the impact of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) related to the development of lifestyle-related chronic diseases, under the hypothesis that they would be associated with PA. However, PA is a multidetermined behavior and associated with a multitude of health consequences. Thus, examining a broader range of candidate genes associated with a broader range of PA correlates may provide new insights into the genetic underpinnings of PA. In this study, we focus on one such correlate – sensation-seeking behavior. Participants (N = 1130 Mexican origin youth) provided a saliva sample and data on PA and sensation-seeking tendencies in 2008–2009. Participants were genotyped for 630 functional and tagging variants in the dopamine, serotonin and cannabinoid pathways. Overall 30% of participants (males – 37.6% and females – 22.0%) reported ≥60 min of PA on 5 of 7 days. After adjusting for gender, age and population stratification, and applying the Bayesian False Discovery Probability approach for assessing noteworthiness, four gene variants were significantly associated with PA. In a multivariable model, being male, having higher sensation-seeking tendencies and at least one copy of the minor allele for SNPs in angiotensin I-converting enzyme gene [ACE; rs8066276 odds ratio (OR) = 1.44; P = 0.012] and tryptophan hydroxylase 2 gene (TPH2; rs11615016 OR = 1.73; P = 0.021) were associated with increased likelihood of meeting PA recommendations. Participants with at least one copy of the minor allele for SNPs in synaptosomal-associated protein 25 gene (SNAP25; rs363035 OR = 0.53; P = 0.005) and cannabinoid receptor 1 gene (CNR1; rs6454672 OR = 0.62; P = 0.022) have decreased likelihood of meeting PA recommendations. Our findings extend current knowledge of the complex relationship between PA and possible genetic underpinnings.