Evidence of a prominent genetic basis for associations between psychoneurometric traits and common mental disorders

Noah C. Venables, Brian M. Hicks, James R. Yancey, Mark D. Kramer, Lindsay D. Nelson, Casey M. Strickland, Robert F. Krueger, William G. Iacono, Christopher J. Patrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Threat sensitivity (THT) and weak inhibitory control (or disinhibition; DIS) are trait constructs that relate to multiple types of psychopathology and can be assessed psychoneurometrically (i.e., using self-report and physiological indicators combined). However, to establish that psychoneurometric assessments of THT and DIS index biologically-based liabilities, it is important to clarify the etiologic bases of these variables and their associations with clinical problems. The current work addressed this important issue using data from a sample of identical and fraternal adult twins (N = 454). THT was quantified using a scale measure and three physiological indicators of emotional reactivity to visual aversive stimuli. DIS was operationalized using scores on two scale measures combined with two brain indicators from cognitive processing tasks. THT and DIS operationalized in these ways both showed appreciable heritability (0.45, 0.68), and genetic variance in these traits accounted for most of their phenotypic associations with fear, distress, and substance use disorder symptoms. Our findings suggest that, as indices of basic dispositional liabilities for multiple forms of psychopathology with direct links to neurophysiology, psychoneurometric assessments of THT and DIS represent novel and important targets for biologically-oriented research on psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-12
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - May 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants P50 MH072850 and RC1 MH089727 from the National Institute of Mental Health, and grant W911NF-14-1-0027 from the US Army. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Department of Veterans Affairs, or U.S. Recruiting Command. Funding sources had no role in the study design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the article for publication. The authors have no financial disclosures or competing interests.


  • Disinhibition
  • Externalizing
  • Fear
  • Inhibitory control
  • Internalizing
  • Mental disorders
  • Psychopathology
  • Threat sensitivity

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