Various psychiatric disorders are characterized by elevated levels of impulsivity. Although extensive evidence supports a specific role of striatal, but not frontal dopamine (DA) in human impulsivity, recent studies on genetic variability have raised some doubts on such a role. Importantly, impulsivity consists of two dissociable components that previous studies have failed to separate: functional and dysfunctional impulsivity. We compared participants with a genetic predisposition to have relatively high striatal DA levels (DAT1 9-repeat carriers, DRD2 C957T T/T homozygotes, and DRD4 7-repeat carriers) with participants with other genetic predispositions. We predicted that the first group would show high scores of dysfunctional, but not functional, self-reported impulsivity and greater difficulty in inhibiting a behavioral response to a stop-signal, a behavioral measure of impulsivity. In a sample of 130 healthy adults, we studied the relation between DAT1, DRD4, and C957T polymorphism at the DRD2 gene (polymorphisms related to striatal DA) and catechol-Omethyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met (a polymorphism related to frontal DA) on self-reported dysfunctional and functional impulsivity, assessed by the Dickman impulsivity inventory (DII), and the efficiency of inhibitory control, assessed by the stop-signal paradigm. DRD2 C957T T/T homozygotes and DRD4 7-repeat carriers indeed had significantly higher scores on self-reported dysfunctional, but not functional, impulsivity. T/T homozygotes were also less efficient in inhibiting prepotent responses. Our findings support the claim that dopaminergic variation affects dysfunctional impulsivity. This is in line with the notion that the over-supply of striatal DA might weaken inhibitory pathways, thereby enhancing the activation of, and the competition between responses.
Copyright © 2010 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.