Is betting in your genes?

This article is more than 12 months old

Want to make a bet? The answer probably lies in your genes.

A study by researchers from National University of Singapore and University of California, Berkeley, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have found that genes play a part in triggering how your brains make decisions on taking risks.

A study of more than 200 people has shown that genetics plays a big role in how a person acts when it comes to betting and investing.

The genes in question affect the role of dopamine, a chemical released in the brain that signals pleasure and motivates people to seek rewards.

Dopamine is already known to play a role in social interactions, but researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, said their study is the first to show how genes govern the way dopamine functions in the brain.

“This study shows that genes influence complex social behaviour, in this case strategic behaviour,” said lead study author Ming Hsu, an assistant professor of marketing in UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

The research involved 217 undergraduates at the National University of Singapore. Their genomes were scanned for some 700,000 genetic variants.

They studied the students’ brains with MRI imaging as they engaged in a competitive game, in which one person bet via computer with an anonymous opponent.

Those who had a variation in three genes that affect how dopamine functions in a certain part of the brain (known as the medial prefrontal cortex) were better at being able to imagine their competitor’s thinking and anticipate and respond to the actions of others.

And those who two genes that primarily affect dopamine in the brain’s striatal region were found to be better at trial-and-error learning.

Researchers found that the genetic role in decision-making was evident with a “surprising degree of consistency” among those studied.