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Genes of Risk

Why some people hurl themselves down mountains — and do 720s in the air as they do so — may be due, in part, to their genetic makeup, the New York Times' Well blog reports.

A 2006 study of risk-taking in twins found that if one twin sought risks, the other was more likely too as well. Other studies have been trying to home in on genes that might be behind such sensation seeking.

For instance, Cynthia Thomson, now at Quest University Canada, asked skiers and snowboarders at British Columbia resorts to take a questionnaire and give DNA samples, the Times says. From her small number of samples, Thomson found variations within the DRD4 gene seemed to be associated with risk-taking. Follow-up work in nearly 400 more people also indicated a link, though the effect of the variant was small, explaining some 3 percent of behavior difference.

Still, Thomson tells the Times that if your kid is one of those tumbling risk-takers, "consider directing him or her to freestyle skiing or gymnastics classes."