Brown Bag Talk by Prof Richard Ebstein on 28 Aug 2013

Speaker: Professor Richard P. Ebstein

Title: The dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) and human decision making: Risk, religion and political ideology.

Date: 28 August 2013 (Wednesday), 12pm-1pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Dopamine neural pathways are important in brain reward and reinforcement areas of the mesolimbic system as well as in prefrontal cortical regions involved in cognition, attention and executive function. There are five known dopamine receptors and one of the most studied is the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) which is characterized by a highly polymorphic repeat region in the third exon. The talk today will review the evidence that the polymorphic exon III repeat region partially contributes to individual differences in risk attitude, altruism and political ideology.  We will discuss our own studies here at NUS as well as other studies which taken together paint a coherent and we believe convincing picture of the role of this gene in human decision making. The talk highlights the insights that can be gained from using a neurogenetic approach in economic and cognitive science towards a deeper understanding of how people make choices.

About the speaker:

Prof. Ebstein, the PI of this proposal, has ~285 peer reviewed articles including in top tier publications such as Nature, Nature Genetics, Neuron, Molecular Psychiatry and the American J of Psychiatry. He has an h-index of 61 overall and 45 since 2008.  He has made major contributions to the emerging field of social neuroscience, human behavioral genetics and neuroeconomics. His seminal article in Nature Genetics in 1996 (with 1,229 citations) launched the field of molecular personality genetics. He is the first to use a behavioral economic paradigm, the Dictator Game in a molecular genetic study. His genetic studies of oxytocin and vasopressin neural pathways are a major contribution to our understanding of the social brain in humans.  Articles of interest for the current talk include the following1-7:

1.              Jiang, Y., Chew, S.H. & Ebstein, R.P. The role of D4 receptor gene exon III polymorphisms in shaping human altruism and prosocial behavior. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7(2013).

2.              Lim, J. et al. Dopaminergic polymorphisms associated with time-on-task declines and fatigue in the Psychomotor Vigilance Test. PLoS One 7, e33767 (2012).

3.              Knafo, A., Israel, S. & Ebstein, R.P. Heritability of children’s prosocial behavior and differential susceptibility to parenting by variation in the dopamine receptor D4 gene. Dev Psychopathol 23, 53-67 (2011).

4.              Zhong, S. et al. Dopamine D4 receptor gene associated with fairness preference in ultimatum game. PLoS One 5, e13765 (2010).

5.              Eisenegger, C. et al. Dopamine receptor D4 polymorphism predicts the effect of L-DOPA on gambling behavior. Biol Psychiatry 67, 702-6 (2010).

6.              Ebstein, R.P., Israel, S., Chew, S.H., Zhong, S. & Knafo, A. Genetics of human social behavior. Neuron 65, 831-44 (2010).

7.              Ebstein, R.P. The molecular genetic architecture of human personality: beyond self-report questionnaires. Mol Psychiatry 11, 427-45 (2006).


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