Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Sensation Seeking May Be in the Genes

Study Shows Link Between Risky Behavior and Genetic Mutations
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 6, 2010 -- Some people may be more inclined than others to engage in risky behaviors, such as skydiving and the use of mind-altering drugs like cocaine, because of genetic mutations in the brain’s dopamine system, a new study suggests.

Dopamine has been associated with sensation-seeking behavior in previous studies. Jaime Derringer, a PhD student at the University of Minnesota, says she and fellow researchers examined mutations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) found in eight genes associated with dopamine. An analysis of the genes of 635 people who were part of a study on addiction was performed.

Derringer says it’s too early to start screening people for these mutations and that not enough is known about genes and behavior. But the same methods her team used, she says, could be employed to study links between brain biology and risky behaviors, or between brain biology and depression.

Sensation seeking has been linked in previous research to addictions and behavioral disorders. Though sensation seeking seems to be written in the genes, she says that doesn’t mean that all individuals with the mutations will do dangerous things.

“Not everyone who’s high on sensation seeking becomes a drug addict,” she says. “They may become an Army Ranger or an artist.”

She says in the study that sensation seeking is an inheritable personality trait, associated with behavioral disorders that have high social costs.

The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix