Personality traits and psychiatric disorders linked to specific genomic locations

December 8, 2016
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) has identified six loci or regions of the human genome that are significantly linked to personality traits, report researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in this week's advance online publication of Nature Genetics. The findings also show correlations with psychiatric disorders.

"Although personality traits are heritable, it has been difficult to characterize genetic variants associated with personality until recent, large-scale GWAS," said senior author Chi-Hua Chen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Five psychological factors are commonly used to measure individual differences in personality:

  • Extraversion (versus introversion) reflects talkativeness, assertiveness and a high activity level
  • Neuroticism (versus emotional stability) reflects negative affect, such as anxiety and depression
  • Agreeableness (versus antagonism) measures cooperativeness and compassion
  • Conscientiousness (versus undependability) indicates diligence and self-discipline
  • Openness to experience (versus being closed to experience) suggests intellectual curiosity and creativity
Psychologists and others define personality phenotypes—sets of observable characteristics—based upon quantitative scoring of these five factors. Past meta-analyses of twin and family studies have attributed approximately 40 percent of variance in personality to genetic factors. GWAS, which look for genetic variations across a large sampling of people, have discovered several variants associated with the five factors.

In their new paper, Chen and colleagues analyzed genetic variations among the five personality traits and six , using data from 23andMe, a privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company, the Genetics of Personality Consortium, a European-based collaboration of GWAS focusing on personality questions, UK Biobank and deCODE Genetics, an Iceland-based human genetics company.

The researchers found, for example, that extraversion was associated with variants in the gene WSCD2 and near gene PCDH15; neuroticism was associated with variants on chromosome 8p23.1 and gene L3MBTL2. Personality traits were largely separated genetically from psychiatric disorders, except for neuroticism and openness to experience, which clustered in the same genomic regions as the disorders.

In addition, there were high genetic correlations between extraversion and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and between openness and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Neuroticism was genetically correlated with internalized psychopathologies, such as depression and anxiety.

"We identified genetic variants linked to extraversion and neuroticism personality traits," said Chen. "Our study is in an early stage for genetic research in personality and many more genetic variants associated with personality traits are to be discovered. We found genetic correlations between and psychiatric disorders, but specific variants underlying the correlations are unknown."

The authors note that while the sample size of the meta-analyses was large (123,132 to 260,861 participants in different studies), they used only GWAS summary statistics and cannot estimate all genetic variance factors; some studies also used different methodologies.

Explore further: Scientists ID genes connected to wellbeing, depression and neuroticism

More information: Min-Tzu Lo et al, Genome-wide analyses for personality traits identify six genomic loci and show correlations with psychiatric disorders, Nature Genetics (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ng.3736

Related Stories

Scientists ID genes connected to wellbeing, depression and neuroticism

April 19, 2016
An international group of more than 190 scientists who analyzed the genomes of 298,420 individuals have found genetic variants that may influence our sense of wellbeing, depression and neuroticism.

Genetics play role in character traits related to academic success, study says

July 12, 2016
Character traits, such as grit or desire to learn, have a heavy hand in academic success and are partially rooted in genetics, according to a psychology study at The University of Texas at Austin.

Neuroticism predicts anxiety and depression disorders

January 27, 2016
A new Northwestern University and UCLA study has found for the first time that young people who are high on the personality trait of neuroticism are highly likely to develop both anxiety and depression disorders.

Researchers identify genetic associations of neuroticism

April 12, 2016
Neuroticism, a personality trait related to depression, anxiety and even heart disease, can be linked to nine new distinct gene-associations according to international research led by the University of Glasgow.

A new method for assessing families

July 27, 2016
In the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics a new formulation of a psychological questionnaire for assessing families is presented. The Family Assessment Device (FAD) is a widely used 60-item self-report questionnaire ...

Recommended for you

New clues to treat Alagille syndrome from zebrafish

October 18, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies potential new therapeutic avenues for patients with Alagille syndrome. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, ...

Genetic variants associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder identified

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence of four genes that can be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

An architect gene is involved in the assimilation of breast milk

October 17, 2017
A family of "architect" genes called Hox coordinates the formation of organs and limbs during embryonic life. Geneticists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), ...

Study identifies genes responsible for diversity of human skin colors

October 12, 2017
Human populations feature a broad palette of skin tones. But until now, few genes have been shown to contribute to normal variation in skin color, and these had primarily been discovered through studies of European populations.

Genes critical for hearing identified

October 12, 2017
Fifty-two previously unidentified genes that are critical for hearing have been found by testing over 3,000 mouse genes. The newly discovered genes will provide insights into the causes of hearing loss in humans, say scientists ...

Team completes atlas of human DNA differences that influence gene expression

October 11, 2017
Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have completed a detailed atlas documenting the stretches of human DNA that influence gene expression - a key way in which a person's genome gives rise to an observable ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.