A targeted review of the neurobiology and genetics of behavioural addictions: An emerging area of research

Abstract

This review summarizes neurobiological and genetic findings in behavioural addictions, draws parallels with findings pertaining to substance use disorders, and offers suggestions for future research. Articles concerning brain function, neurotransmitter activity, and family history and (or) genetic findings for behavioural addictions involving gambling, Internet use, video game playing, shopping, kleptomania, and sexual activity were reviewed. Behavioural addictions involve dysfunction in several brain regions, particularly the frontal cortex and striatum. Findings from imaging studies incorporating cognitive tasks have arguably been more consistent than cue-induction studies. Early results suggest white and grey matter differences. Neurochemical findings suggest roles for dopaminergic and serotonergic systems, but results from clinical trials seem more equivocal While limited, family history and genetic data support heritability for pathological gambling and that people with behavioural addictions are more likely to have a close family member with some form of psychopathology. Parallels exist between neurobiological and genetic and family history findings in substance and nonsubstance addictions, suggesting that compulsive engagement in these behaviours may constitute addictions. To date, findings are limited, particularly for shopping, kleptomania, and sexual behaviour Genetic understandings are at an early stage Future research directions are offered. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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