University of Helsinki researchers have identified a genetic mutation which renders carriers susceptible to particularly impulsive and reckless behavior when drunk. More than one hundred thousand Finns carry this mutation. Many Finns know somebody whose behavior becomes excessively strange and erratic when drunk. They are said to be unable to "hold their liquor," and others are surprised at how inebriated they become from just a small amount of alcohol. Since the trait seems permanent, it can be assumed that there are underlying biological factors.
If these results prove significant in larger clinical samples of individual patients who suffer greatly from difficulties in impulse control, several preventive measures could be taken. The most important measure would obviously be controlling the consumption of alcohol. Other measures would include attempting to achieve control over behavior through cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy or medication.
Apart from the putative effect on the health of Finnish population, the discovery of this biological mechanism may be groundbreaking in understanding the role of the serotonin 2B receptor in humans. Novel neurobiological research is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that the expression of a gene -- that is, the gene's production of proteins can be affected in various ways. The findings may elucidate the role of the serotonin 2B receptor in the health of any given population. Moreover, increasing knowledge of the function of the serotonin 2B receptor may lead to new pharmacological innovations, since no medications specific to it are presently available.
The discovery is based on long-term research cooperation between the University of Helsinki Psychiatry Clinic and the Dr David Goldman's laboratory of Neurogenetics at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the United States.