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Vulnerability genes or plasticity genes?

Belsky, J., Jonassaint, C., Pluess, M., Stanton, M., Brummett, B., & Williams, R. (2009), Molecular Psychiatry, 14(8), 746-754. doi: 10.1038/mp.2009.44

In this conceptual paper on gene-environment interaction, the authors propose that some genetic variants may reflect broad sensitivity to the environment rather than an inherent vulnerability for the development of psychological problems when exposed to adverse influences.

The authors refer to three well-known examples of vulnerability genes that have been associated with heightened risk for the development of antisocial behaviour, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In all three cases some studies show that people that carry the risk variants are not only more likely to develop problems when experiencing adversity but also less likely to develop problems when experiencing a supportive environment.