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Genetic modulation of personality traits: a systematic review of the literature

Balestri, Martinaa; Calati, Raffaellab; Serretti, Alessandroa; De Ronchi, Dianaa

International Clinical Psychopharmacology: January 2014 - Volume 29 - Issue 1 - p 1–15
doi: 10.1097/YIC.0b013e328364590b
Review Article

The heritability of human personality traits is by now well established. However, since the first reports on associations between specific genetic variants and personality traits, only modest progress has been made in identifying loci that robustly support these associations. The aim of this study was to provide a summary of literature data on association studies focused on the genetic modulation of personality, according to the Cloninger, Eysenck and Costa and McCrae models. PubMed was searched for papers investigating the association between any gene variant and personality traits, which were grouped into five clusters: (a) anxiety, (b) impulsivity, (c) determination-activity, (d) socialization and (e) spirituality, in healthy individuals, populations and psychiatric patients. A total of 369 studies were included. No clear consensus on the role of any individual gene variant in personality modulation emerged, although SLC6A4 haplotypes and the DRD4 rs1800955 promoter variant seemed to be more reliably related to anxiety and impulsivity-related traits, respectively. Because conflicting results emerged from the literature, plausibly as a result of the combined influence of many loci of small effects on personality, larger sample sizes and more narrow and specific phenotype will be the minimum requirements for future genetic studies on personality. Moreover, gene×gene and gene×environment interaction studies deserve further attention.

aDepartment of Biomedical and NeuroMotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna

bIRCCS Centro S. Giovanni di Dio, Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy

All supplementary digital content is available directly from the corresponding author.

Correspondence to Alessandro Serretti, MD, PhD, Department of Biomedical and NeuroMotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Viale Carlo Pepoli 5, 40123 Bologna, Italy Tel: +39 051 6584233; fax: +39 051 521030; e-mail:

Received February 28, 2013

Accepted June 18, 2013

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins