Sources of cognitive exploration: Genetic variation in the prefrontal dopamine system predicts Openness/Intellect

Colin G. DeYoung, Dante Cicchetti, Fred A. Rogosch, Jeremy R. Gray, Maria Eastman, Elena L. Grigorenko

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66 Scopus citations


The personality trait Openness/Intellect reflects the tendency to be imaginative, curious, perceptive, artistic, and intellectual - all characteristics that involve cognitive exploration. Little is known about the biological basis of Openness/Intellect, but the trait has been linked to cognitive functions of prefrontal cortex, and the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a key role in motivation to explore. The hypothesis that dopamine is involved in Openness/Intellect was supported by examining its association with two genes that are central components of the prefrontal dopaminergic system. In two demographically different samples (children: N= 608; adults: N=214), variation in the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) and the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene (COMT) predicted Openness/Intellect, as main effects in the child sample and as a gene-gene interaction in adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-371
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (F32 MH077382) to Colin G. DeYoung, from the National Science Foundation (DRL 0644131) to Jeremy R. Gray, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA12903, DA17741) and the Spunk Fund, Inc. to Dante Cicchetti and Fred A. Rogosch, and from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (HD052120) to Elena L. Grigorenko. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NSF, NIMH, NIDA, or NICHD.


  • COMT
  • DRD4
  • Dopamine
  • Genetics
  • Intellect
  • Openness to Experience
  • Personality


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