A neuroeconomic investigation of 5-HTT/ 5-HT1A gene variation, social anxiety, and risk-taking behavior

Anxiety Stress Coping. 2020 Mar;33(2):176-192. doi: 10.1080/10615806.2020.1722597. Epub 2020 Feb 3.


Background and objectives: Although approaches combining behavioral genetics and neuroeconomics have advanced models of addiction, no study has synthesized these methods to elucidate mechanisms of competing risk-approachand risk-avoidance in social anxiety (SA). Grounded in dual-mode models of serotonergic systems and self-regulation, this study investigated associations between SA, serotonin transporter 5-HTT (LPR; rs25531) and receptor 5-HT1A genes, and risk-taking on behavioral and self-report measures.Design and methods: Young adults (N = 309) completed a neuroeconomic task measuring gambling attractiveness (δ), reward probability discrimination (γ), and risk attitudes (α). Risk genotypes included 5-HTT (LPR; rs25531) low-expression variants (SS/SLG/LGLG), and 5-HT1A (rs6295) GG.Results: Path analysis revealed that SA related to increased gambling attractiveness, but only for 5-HT1A risk groups. Although the 5-HTT (LPR; rs25531) risk genotypes and self-reported SA predicted lower social risk-taking, high-SA individuals who exhibited more accurate reward probability discrimination (γ) reported taking increased social risks.Conclusion: In line with dual-mode models, results suggest that SA predicts behavioral risk-approach at the basic decision-making level, along with self-reported social risk-avoidance, modulated by serotonergic genotypes. High-SA individuals with more accurate assessments of reward probabilities may engage in greater social risk-taking, perhaps reflecting an adaptive tendency to approach feared situations.

Keywords: 5-HT1A; 5-HTT (LPR; rs25531); Social anxiety; decision-making; neuroeconomics; risk-taking.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / genetics*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Female
  • Gambling / genetics*
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / genetics*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Young Adult


  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A