24 December 2008

Genes of cute bullies

And then the genes worked
Alexey Levin, Voice of AmericaThe great science of genetics is divided into many specialties – for example, medical genetics, molecular genetics, neurogenetics, immunogenetics.

It also has a branch focused on analyzing the connections between hereditary information and the nature of behavior (both animals and humans). It's called behavioral genetics. Its founder is considered to be a remarkable English anthropologist and psychologist Francis Galton (by the way, a relative of Charles Darwin), who was the first to systematically investigate the hereditary aspects of human giftedness.

Interestingly, he started this work back in the 60s of the 19th century, just a few years after Gregor Mendel began experiments with peas, which led him to discover the laws of genetics.

The fact that genetic features create a predisposition to certain forms of behavior is now quite generally recognized. Some experts even believe that a person's social reactions are determined by his genes in no way less than half – and the second half falls on upbringing and environment. In recent years, a hypothesis has been discussed in the scientific literature, according to which our attitude towards other people is to some extent influenced by them (and not just ours!) genes. In theory, it looks very tempting, but so far it has lacked experimental evidence.

Now the shares of this idea have increased thanks to an experiment by a teacher at the University of Michigan, Alexandra Burt (S. Alexandra Burt). She selected for him over 200 students unfamiliar with each other (only boys) and divided them into two groups of approximately the same number. Both groups met separately in the laboratory for free communication of an hour duration. Each subject later filled out a questionnaire that allowed him to judge which of the meeting partners he particularly liked. Those who were called more often than others were considered the leaders of popularity.

Alexandra Barth wanted to check whether these young people have at least one common genetic feature. And she actually discovered it. It turned out that the most popular students have a specific version of one of the genes involved in the work of serotonin – a substance involved in the transmission of chemical signals between nerve cells. Our body produces several dozen of these intermediary compounds, which are collectively called neurotransmitters. Both serious overproduction and a sharp shortage of certain neurotransmitters lead to numerous disorders of the central nervous system.

A lot is already known about the effect of serotonin on behavior. And it is very diverse. So, with an increase in the concentration of this neurotransmitter, a person becomes more purposeful and concentrates better on completing tasks. But only for the time being – a further increase in serotonin secretion creates a risk of developing obsessive-compulsive psychosis. Lack of serotonin makes people overly impulsive.

But back to the experiment. Dr. Barth found out that in the champions of popularity, the identified gene in the course of its work stimulates a willingness to violate established rules of communication, in other words, promotes looseness in social contacts. In an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America, she emphasized that we are not talking about any criminal tendencies here at all. The young leaders during the sessions simply behaved more freely than others - they entered into discussions more easily, showed vivacity in conversation and reacted better to jokes. She believes that it is precisely this behavioral feature that turned out to be attractive to most of the participants in the meetings. This information is contained in her article, which will be published in April next year by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru24.12.2008

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