The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 19 No. 6 • July 2016

The DRD2 Gene Unequivocally Identified As Regulating Risky Behavior in Rats

A study of rats published in NATURE (Zalocasky, 2016) provides strong support for the view that DRD2 gene expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) is importantly involved in risky behavior such as gambling.

The experiments presented rats with an opportunity to get a sure reward of sugary treats every time or a much larger reward of the same treats (but only 25% of the time) when they pressed a lever. Some of the rats were considered “daredevils” as they kept on going for the big reward even after getting nothing time and time again. Others were cautious and went for the sure reward. Rats with the MOST DRD2 activity were the ones that became very cautious (“chicken”) after a loss (receiving nothing). The daredevil rats had low levels of DRD2 activity and kept on going for the big one.


People with the syndrome are prone to activities that supply extra stimulation to cause enough dopamine release to provide pleasure, hence, thrill-seeking, the desire to engage in risky, often dangerous activities, such as (for example) skydiving, gambling, using potentially dangerous drugs, and promiscuous unprotected sex. The DRD2 genetic variant has also been associated with aggressive behavior, “which also stimulates the brain’s use of dopamine.” (Blum, 2008)


Zalocusky et al. Nucleus accumbens D2R cells signal prior outcomes and control risky decision-making. Nature. 31;531(7596):642-6. doi: 10.1038/nature17400 (2016 Mar).

Blum et al. Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and reward deficiency syndrome. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 4(5):893-917 (2008).

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