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  • 1 Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
  • 2 Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA
  • 3 Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3535 Market Street, 6th Floor, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA
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Abstract

Despite the significant associations between the short (S) allele of the serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) and various psychiatric disorders, the S allele has persisted at relatively high prevalence in the human population worldwide. Based on findings of greater amygdala activity among S allele carriers both at rest and in response to threat-relevant stimuli, the S allele appears to be associated with greater vigilance for danger; therefore we hypothesized that the S allele would be associated with lower scores on risk-related traits. In order to test this hypothesis we assessed the 5-HTTLPR genotype of 81 individuals of European ancestry and tested for an effect of genotype on two dimensions of risk-related behavior: venturesomeness and impulsivity. Results revealed significantly lower venturesomeness and a trend toward lower impulsivity associated with the S allele. We speculate that relatively greater vigilance for and avoidance of danger may counteract the disease risk associated with the 5-HTTLPR S allele and contribute to its persistence at high prevalence in the human population. Replication in a larger sample is necessary in order to confirm these associations.

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