Date of Award

August 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Aesoon Park


cumulative genetic score, drinking urge, gene-environment interaction, stressor

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Stressful life events have been positively associated with alcohol use and misuse in young adults; however, individual differences in the association suggest the presence of moderators. Findings from observational studies suggest that the effects of stressful environments on drinking behavior may differ as a function of diverse single monoamine genes regulating serotonin and dopamine neurotransmission. However, research has not utilized an experimental design to examine whether the monoamine genes collectively are associated with the degree to which exposure to stressors affects alcohol endophenotypes. The current study examined whether the effects of an experimentally manipulated psychosocial stressor on drinking urge and attentional bias for alcohol cues differ as a function of the cumulative genetic index of 5-HTTLPR, MAO-A, DRD4, DAT1, and DRD2 genotypes (candidate genes and environment interaction; cGxE). The current study also examined whether salivary alpha-amylase level or anxiety state mediate the cGxE effects. One hundred five Caucasian young adults (mean age = 19.83; 61% male) went through both control and experimental stress conditions in order. Results showed that, as the cumulative genetic score of the five monoamine genes increased, attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli elevated in the stress condition but not in the control condition. No mediating roles of salivary alpha-amylase and anxiety state in the cGxE effect were found, however. High cumulative genetic score of the five monoamine genes was associated with elevated drinking urge both in the control and stress conditions. Although replication is necessary, the findings suggest that the five monoamine genes collectively were positively associated with the cognitive process of an individual’s drive for alcohol (i.e., attentional bias) in stressful situations. The underlying psychological and neurobiological mechanisms need to be further characterized.


Open Access