THURSDAY, Oct. 7, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Do your genes predispose you to thrill-seeking?
Scientists looking into this question have found a dozen gene mutations associated with the urge to do exciting things.
This urge, called "sensation seeking" by researchers, has been linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical that carries messages in the brain. In research that involved 635 people enrolled in a study on addiction, the scientists looked at 273 genetic mutations -- involving a change in just one letter of the DNA -- known to occur in eight genes with roles related to dopamine.
That number was eventually narrowed down to a dozen potentially important mutations. When those 12 gene variants were combined, they explained just under 4 percent of the difference between people who are sensation seekers and those who are not. This may not seem like much but it is "quite large for a genetic study," according to study first author Jaime Derringer, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota.
However, she added, it's too early to start screening people for these mutations because not enough is known about how genes affect behavior.
While sensation seeking has been linked to a range of behavior disorders, such as drug addiction, it can be a positive trait.
"Not everyone who's high on sensation-seeking becomes a drug addict. They may become an Army Ranger or an artist. It's all in how you channel it," Derringer said.
The study appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.
For more on the psychology of thrill-seeking behavior, visit the archives of the American Psychological Association.