Your genes may influence how sensitive you are to emotional information, according to a new study which found that carriers of a certain genetic variation perceived positive and negative images more vividly, and had heightened activity in certain brain regions.
The gene in question is ADRA2b, which influences the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The ADRA2b deletion variant appears in varying degrees across different ethnicities. Although roughly 50 percent of the Caucasian population studied by these researchers in Canada carry the genetic variation, it has been found to be prevalent in other ethnicities. For example, one study found that just 10 percent of Rwandans carried the ADRA2b gene variant.
“People really do see the world differently,” says Rebecca Todd, a professor in University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology and lead author of a paper in The Journal of Neuroscience. “For people with this gene variation, the emotionally relevant things in the world stand out much more.”
Todd believes this may help explain why some people are more susceptible to PTSD and intrusive memories following trauma.
“Emotions are not only about how feel about the world, but how our brains influence our perception of it,” says Adam Anderson, professor of human development at Cornell University and senior author of the study. “As our genes influence how we literally see the positive and negative aspects of our world more clearly, we may come to believe the world has more rewards or threats.”
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