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. 2014 Dec;50(3):765-96.
doi: 10.1007/s12035-014-8726-5. Epub 2014 May 31.

Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS): Molecular Neurogenetic Evidence for Predisposition to Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)

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Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS): Molecular Neurogenetic Evidence for Predisposition to Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)

Kenneth Blum et al. Mol Neurobiol. .
Free PMC article


We have published extensively on the neurogenetics of brain reward systems with reference to the genes related to dopaminergic function in particular. In 1996, we coined "Reward Deficiency Syndrome" (RDS), to portray behaviors found to have gene-based association with hypodopaminergic function. RDS as a useful concept has been embraced in many subsequent studies, to increase our understanding of Substance Use Disorder (SUD), addictions, and other obsessive, compulsive, and impulsive behaviors. Interestingly, albeit others, in one published study, we were able to describe lifetime RDS behaviors in a recovering addict (17 years sober) blindly by assessing resultant Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS™) data only. We hypothesize that genetic testing at an early age may be an effective preventive strategy to reduce or eliminate pathological substance and behavioral seeking activity. Here, we consider a select number of genes, their polymorphisms, and associated risks for RDS whereby, utilizing GWAS, there is evidence for convergence to reward candidate genes. The evidence presented serves as a plausible brain-print providing relevant genetic information that will reinforce targeted therapies, to improve recovery and prevent relapse on an individualized basis. The primary driver of RDS is a hypodopaminergic trait (genes) as well as epigenetic states (methylation and deacetylation on chromatin structure). We now have entered a new era in addiction medicine that embraces the neuroscience of addiction and RDS as a pathological condition in brain reward circuitry that calls for appropriate evidence-based therapy and early genetic diagnosis and that requires further intensive investigation.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Brain Reward Cascade [14, 15]. In this cascade, stimulation of the serotonergic system in the hypothalamus leads to the stimulation of delta/mu receptors by serotonin to cause a release of enkephalin. Activation of the enkephalinergic system induces an inhibition of GABA transmission at the substania nigra by enkephalin stimulation of mu receptors at GABA neurons. This inhibitory effect allows for the fine-tuning of GABA activity. This provides the normal release of dopamine at the projected area of the NAc [14, 15]
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
KARG an addiction network map [6]
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
This is a list of Pub Med articles that associate polymorphisms of reward genes with risk of RDS behaviors. For each gene, there are many polymorphisms, and there are multiple receptors for each listed transmitter. The DRD2 gene is the most widely studied as a single receptor type. Reward Gene Publications 3/16/2014

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