Linking Gene, brain, and behavior: DRD4, frontal asymmetry, and temperament

Louis A. Schmidt, Nathan A. Fox, Koraly Perez-Edgar, Dean H. Hamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Gene-environment interactions involving exogenous environmental factors are known to shape behavior and personality development. Although gene-environment interactions involving endogenous environmental factors are hypothesized to play an equally important role, this conceptual approach has not been empirically applied in the study of early-developing temperament in humans. Here we report evidence for a gene-endoenvironment (i.e., resting frontal brain electroencephalogram, EEG, asymmetry) interaction in predicting child temperament. The dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene (long allele vs. short allele) moderated the relation between resting frontal EEG asymmetry (left vs. right) at 9 months and temperament at 48 months. Children who exhibited left frontal EEG asymmetry at 9 months and who possessed the DRD4 long allele were significantly more soothable at 48 months than other children. Among children with right frontal EEG asymmetry at 9 months, those with the DRD4 long allele had significantly more difficulties focusing and sustaining attention at 48 months than those with the DRD4 short allele. Resting frontal EEG asymmetry did not influence temperament in the absence of the DRD4 long allele. We discuss how the interaction of genetic and endoenvironmental factors may confer risk and protection for different behavioral styles in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)831-837
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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