Genetics of pathological gambling

J Gambl Stud. Spring 2003;19(1):11-22. doi: 10.1023/a:1021271029163.


Pathological gambling (PG) is an impulse control disorder and a model 'behavioral' addiction. Familial factors have been observed in clinical studies of pathological gamblers, and twin studies have demonstrated a genetic influence contributing to the development of PG. Serotonergic, noradrenergic, and dopaminergic dysfunction have been reported as biological factors contributing to the pathophysiology of PG. Molecular genetic techniques have been used to investigate the role of genetic factors in PG. Molecular genetic research has identified specific allele variants of candidate genes corresponding to these neurotransmitter systems to be associated with PG. Associations have been reported between pathological gamblers and allele variants of polymorphisms at dopamine receptor genes, the serotonin transporter gene, and the monoamine-oxidase A gene. Although preliminary data suggest that some of these differences are gender-specific, more research needs to be performed to substantiate gender-specific genetic contributions to the development of pathological gambling. The review of the current findings on genetics of PG suggests that liability to PG is in part mediated by genetic factors. Additional studies are needed to replicate and extend these findings, as well as to better understand the influence of specific allelic variants to differences in biological and behavioral functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / ethnology
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Gambling*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Molecular Biology