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Infidelity Might Be in the Genes

Study found dopamine receptor variant plays major role in sexual behavior


Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec 3, 2010

Genetics might help explain why some people are more prone to infidelity and promiscuity, says a new study.

Researchers analyzed the DNA of 181 young adults who provided a complete history of their sexual activity and intimate partnerships. They concluded that the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene plays a major role in sexual behavior.

Previous research has linked the DRD4 gene, which influences brain chemistry, to sensation-seeking activities such as gambling and alcohol use.

"What we found was that individuals with a certain variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex, including one-night stands and acts of infidelity," study leader Justin Garcia, of the laboratory of evolutionary anthropology and health at Binghamton University, State University of New York, said in a university news release.

"The motivation seems to stem from a system of pleasure and reward, which is where the release of dopamine comes in. In cases of uncommitted sex, the risks are high, the rewards substantial and the motivation variable -- all elements that ensure a dopamine 'rush,'" Garcia explained.

The findings, published in the current issue of the online journal PLoS One, shouldn't be viewed as an excuse for cheating or promiscuity, Garcia stressed.

"These [gene-behavior] relationships are associative, which means that not everyone with the genotype will have one-night stands or commit infidelity. Indeed, many people without this genotype still have one-night stands and commit infidelity," Garcia said. "The study merely suggests that a much higher proportion of those with this genetic type are likely to engage in these behaviors."

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