Genetics News

Go ahead! Drive drunk! Your genes made you impulsive

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From ScienceDaily:

Delay discounting’ is the tendency, given the choice, to take a smaller reward that is available immediately, instead of a larger reward that will be delivered in the future. According to a report presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in Hollywood, Florida, delay discounting is strongly influenced by our genetic makeup. That is, it is a trait that can be inherited. Identifying the ‘delay discounting’ genes, and the proteins they code for, will be important for understanding the basis of a variety of psychiatric disorders, especially addictions and other disorders that involve impulsive decision-making.

In a study of 602 twins, Dr. Andrey Anokhin and his colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine found that delay discounting gradually improves as teens get older, such that 18 year-olds have a greater ability or tendency to wait for the larger delayed reward, as compared to younger teens. Apart from age, genes accounted for about half of the difference among individuals in their level of delay discounting. Many genes are likely to influence delay discounting; and some of Dr. Ahokhin’s preliminary data suggest that these ‘impulsivity genes’ may include genes coding for enzymes that synthesize the neurotransmitter serotonin and receptors where serotonin binds in the brain. More.

Apparently, it is too soon to consider clinical applications.

We’re guessing there is way more to this. For one thing, what role does acting on impulse play in a person’s well-being? People who live in chaotic and dangerous situations (or whose recent ancestors have, cf epigenetics) may be inclined to make impulsive decisions because circumstances have not warranted much planning, forethought, or introspection. And many children get adopted precisely because that is the sort of environment they are from.

Epigenetics threw a horseshoe into the Gene Machine, and—while this sort of research is worthwhile—it may take decades to figure out what it actually means, never mind how to apply it in medicine.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG No really, it gets better. Here at our highly sophisticated Uncommon Descent Genetic Research Lab, we have made a revolutionary discovery that will enshrine genetic determinism forever if only we can market it: We have discovered the Jackass Gene. You got it, fella? You’re a genuine jackass! That’s your problem in life.

Donkey 1 arp 750px.jpg
I have a perfect right to be a jackass. You don’t.

As it happens, there was only one student volunteer in our study, and he cried for an hour when he got the results (phoned his girlfriend in Manila and stuck the bill with her), then wrecked the lab, and borrowed money from us for a taxi and never paid us back.

It must be his genes. But we need to clean up all the broken glass before we can even think of publishing anything.

See also: Do twins inherit an equal amount of “smartness”? No, apparently. Lifestyle choices matter too, especially exercise.

and

There’s a gene for that… or is there? (Now, you ask? Um, nope.)

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2 Replies to “Go ahead! Drive drunk! Your genes made you impulsive

  1. 1
    dacook says:

    Thank you Denyse for the best laugh of my day. You’re getting funner to read all the time.
    Dave Cook

  2. 2
    bornagain says:

    Dr. Egnor has an article up on the recent male/female brain study:

    At the Intersection of Phrenology and Public Policy – Michael Egnor – December 10, 2015
    Excerpt: The phrenologists’ specific neurological thesis was that higher intellectual functions, particularly functions involving moral behavior, were localized in the cerebral cortex, and that the relative size of cortical regions, as reflected in skull shape, was a reliable indicator of intellectual capacity and moral behavior.
    Phrenology was enormously influential in the early 19th century, eclipsed in the later half of the century, but had a resurgence in the early 20th century, when the science was used to argue for the relative inferiority of various racial groups.
    What is the relation of this 21st century study of gyri to the historical science of phrenology?
    The measurement by fMRI of the shape of brain gyri to infer psychological differences between men and women is not like phrenology or similar to phrenology; it is phrenology, done as the original phrenologists wished they could have done it — using brain imaging to directly measure the cerebral cortex, without having to infer brain structure from skull structure.
    After a century of neuroscience, we are becoming, at last, better phrenologists.
    Of course, the biological differences between men and women are profound, and have nothing to do with the shape of gyri. The important differences between men and women span human biology, psychology, and culture. The differences are too great and too many and too obvious to enumerate, although of course there are many characteristics of men and women that are common to all humanity. Yet to deny the fundamental differences between the sexes, especially the biological differences, is almost a kind of madness. The measurement of gyri notwithstanding, the very existence of humanity depends on the differences between men and women.
    This fMRI study of gyri — this modern phrenology — is not just junk science. It is dangerous junk science. It is dangerous junk science because it can and will be used to influence public policy.
    The Washington Post:
    “Lots of folks — well-intentioned and otherwise — like to point out the supposed differences between male and female brains. But it’s time to throw away the brain gender binary, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Brains can’t really fit into the categories of “male” or “female” — their distinguishing features actually vary across a spectrum.”
    It’s exciting news for anyone who studies the brain — or gender. And it’s a step towards validating the experiences of those who live outside the gender binary.
    This phrenological research should have nothing to do with public policy regarding “the gender binary,” any more than earlier research in phrenology should have had any influence on immigration policy or racial policy,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....01531.html

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