(HealthDay News) – A variant of a gene implicated in anxiety and addiction (nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit alpha 4 [CHRNA4]) is more frequent in people addicted to the Internet, particularly females, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Christian Montag, PhD, from the University of Bonn in Germany, and colleagues surveyed 843 individuals about their Internet dependency using the Internet Addiction Test. The 132 individuals with problematic Internet usage (80 males and 52 females) were age- and sex-matched with 132 control individuals. The participants provided DNA samples and were genotyped for the rs1044396 polymorphism of the CHRNA4 gene.

The researchers found that the Internet-addicted group was significantly more likely to have the T-variant (CC genotype) of the rs1044396 polymorphism on CHRNA4. This effect seemed to be driven by females and not males.

“Combined with the findings from other studies, the present data point in the direction that rs1044396 exerts pleiotropic effects on a vast range of behaviors, including cognition, emotion, and addiction,” Montag and colleagues conclude.

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