Behaviour Genetics – Human


Many studies have shown that genes contribute to at least 50% of most behavioural traits and disorders, and in some cases as much as 90%. In the coming years genetic testing will be used to assist in the diagnosis and choice of treatment of most behavioural problems.

Keywords: polygenic inheritance; twin studies; molecular genetics

Figure 1.

Example of a spectrum of disorders in the relatives of a proband with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The proband (arrow) had ADHD and obesity. Her older brother had Tourette syndrome and alcoholism (A) and her younger brother had ADHD, phobias and alcoholism. Disorders in other relatives are shown.

Figure 2.

Type and location of polymorphisms used in association studies for the identification of specific genes involved in behavioural disorders (see text). Solid blocks represent exons. The numbers, as in C 1456 T, represent the nucleotides, counting from the start site of the gene. A, adenine; G, guanine; C, cytosine; T, thymine; Cys, cysteine; Lys, lysine.

Figure 3.

Additive effect of dopamine genes on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Tourette syndrome probands. From Comings DE et al. (1996) American Journal of Medical Genetics (Neuropsychiatric Genetics)67: 264–288, by permission.


Further Reading

Bouchard TJ Jr (1994) Gene, environment, and personality. Science 264: 1700–1701.

Bouchard TJ Jr, Lykken DT, McGue M et al. (1990) Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota study of twins reared apart. Science 250: 223–228.

Comings DE (1996) Polygenetic inheritance of psychiatric disorders. In:Blum K, Noble EP, Sparks RS et al.. (eds) Handbook of Psychiatric Genetics, pp. 235–260. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press

Loehlin JC (1992) Genes and Environment in Personality Development. Newbury Park: Sage.

Plomin R, Owen MJ and Mcguffin P (1994) The genetic basis of complex human behaviors. Science 264: 1733–1739.

McGue M and Bouchard TJ Jr (1998) Genetic and environmental influences on human behavioral differences. Annual Review of Neuroscience 21: 1–24.

Seeman P and Madras BK (1998) Anti‐hyperactivity medication: methylphenidate and amphetamine. Molecular Psychiatry 3: 386–396.

Sherman DK, McGure MK and Iacono WG (1997) Twin concordance for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a comparison of teachers’ and mothers’ reports. American Journal of Psychiatry 154: 532–535.

Slutske WS, Heath AC, Dinwiddie SH et al. (1997) Modeling genetic and environmental influences in the etiology of conduct disorder: a study of 2682 adult twin pairs. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 106: 266–279.

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How to Cite close
Comings, David E(Apr 2002) Behaviour Genetics – Human. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001897]