Genetic aspects of pathological gambling: a complex disorder with shared genetic vulnerabilities
Article first published online: 3 AUG 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 Society for the Study of Addiction
Volume 104, Issue 9, pages 1454–1465, September 2009
How to Cite
Lobo, D. S. S. and Kennedy, J. L. (2009), Genetic aspects of pathological gambling: a complex disorder with shared genetic vulnerabilities. Addiction, 104: 1454–1465. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02671.x
- Issue published online: 3 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 3 AUG 2009
- Submitted 29 September 2008; initial review completed 7 January 2009; final version accepted 29 April 2009
- molecular genetics;
- pathological gambling
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 50–60%; (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 association 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 brain's reward and impulse control systems.
Conclusions Despite the paucity of studies in this area, published studies have provided considerable evidence 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 corroborate further the importance of understanding the biological underpinnings of PG in the development of more specific treatment and prevention strategies.