Scientists have pinpointed two genes that raise the chance of anyone gambling with money - their own or someone else's.
The study has linked specific variants of two genes that regulate dopamine and serotonin neurotransmission to risk-taking in financial investment decisions.
To reach the conclusion, Northwestern students were given real money to make a series of investments, in each trial deciding how to allocate money between a risky and a risk-free asset.
People with the short serotonin transporter gene, 5-HTTLPR (two copies of the short allele), relative to those with the long version of that polymorphism (at least one copy of the long allele), invested 28 percent less in a risky investment.
Similarly, people who carry the 7-repeat allele of the DRD4 gene in the dopamine family, relative to those carrying other versions of that gene, invested about 25 percent more in a risky investment.
"Our research pinpoints, for the first time, the roles that specific variants of the serotonin transporter gene and the dopamine receptor gene, play in predicting whether people are more or less likely to take financial risks," said Camelia M. Kuhnen, assistant professor of finance, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.
"It shows that individual variability in our genetic makeup effects economic behaviour," the expert added.
"Genetic Determinants of Financial Risk Taking will be published online Wednesday, Feb. 11, by the open-access journal PLoS ONE.
The study included 65 subjects (26 of which were male, and the average age was 22 years).