Genes affect betting decisions too

If you are an avid stock investor, do not just blame your destiny if you missed out on making a fortune in the share market as betting decisions and strategy are determined, in part, by your genes, a new research shows.

According to researchers from University of California, Berkeley, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), betting decisions are influenced by the specific variants of dopamine-regulating genes in a person’s brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical released by brain cells to signal other brain cells – that is a key part of the brain’s reward and pleasure-seeking system.

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

When people engage in competitive social interactions, they primarily call upon two areas of the brain.

These are the medial prefrontal cortex – executive part of the brain – and the striatum that deals with motivation and is crucial for learning to acquire rewards.

There are areas that take inputs, crank them through an algorithm, and translate them into behavioural outputs.

“What is really interesting about these areas is that both are innervated by neurons that use dopamine,” Hsu noted.

Using a mathematical model of brain function during competitive social interactions, Hsu and his team found that differences in belief learning was associated with variation in three genes which primarily affect dopamine functioning in the medial pre-frontal cortex.

In contrast, differences in trial-and-error reinforcement learning — how quickly people forget past experiences and how quickly they change strategy — was associated with variation in two genes that primarily affect striatal dopamine.

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The findings were published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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