Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011 December 15; 119(3): e31–e38.


© 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


Background—Some of the genetic vulnerability for addiction may be mediated by impulsivity. This study investigated relationships among impulsivity, substance use problems and six neurexin-3 (NRXN3) polymorphisms. Neurexins (NRXNs) are presynaptic transmembrane proteins that play a role in the development and function of synapses.

Methods—Impulsivity was assessed with the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale Version 11 (BIS-11), the Boredom Proneness Scale (BPS) and the TIME paradigm; alcohol problems with the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST); drug problems with the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-20); and regular tobacco use with a single question. Participants (N = 439 Caucasians, 64.7% female) donated buccal cells for genotyping. Six NRXN3 polymorphisms were genotyped: rs983795, rs11624704, rs917906, rs1004212, rs10146997 and rs8019381. A dual luciferase assay was conducted to determine whether allelic variation at rs917906 regulated gene expression.

Results—In general, impulsivity was significantly higher in those who regularly used tobacco and/or had alcohol or drug problems. In men, there were modest associations between rs11624704 and attentional impulsivity (p = .005) and between rs1004212 and alcohol problems (p = .009). In women, there were weak associations between rs10146997 and TIME estimation (p = .03); and between rs1004212 and drug problems (p = .03). The dual luciferase assay indicated that C and T alleles of rs917906 did not differentially regulate gene expression in vitro.

Conclusions—Associations between impulsivity, substance use problems and polymorphisms in NRXN3 may be gender specific. Impulsivity is associated with substance use problems and may provide a useful intermediate phenotype for addiction.

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