Researchers Discover 'Dark Side' Gene
October 10, 2013

Come To The Dark Side, It’s In Your Genes

Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online

According to a new study published in Psychological Science, some people are genetically predisposed to have a darker perspective.

Researchers found that a previously known gene variant can cause some people to perceive negative emotional events more vividly than others.

“This is the first study to find that this genetic variation can significantly affect how people see and experience the world,” Professor Rebecca Todd of the University of British Columbia's Department of Psychology said in a press release “The findings suggest people experience emotional aspects of the world partly through gene-colored glasses – and that biological variations at the genetic level can play a significant role in individual differences in perception.”

[ Watch the Video: Genes Predispose Some People to Focus on the Negative ]

The ADRA2b gene variant influences the hormone and neurotransmitter norepinephrine and it plays a role in the formation of emotional memories. The new study shows the gene variant also plays a role in real-time perception.

The team studied 200 participants who were shown positive, negative and neutral words in a rapid succession. They found that volunteers with the ADRA2b gene variant were more likely to perceive negative words than others, while both groups perceived positive words better than neutral words to an equal degree.

“These individuals may be more likely to pick out angry faces in a crowd of people,” says Todd. “Outdoors, they might notice potential hazards – places you could slip, loose rocks that might fall – instead of seeing the natural beauty.”

The researchers said their findings shed new light on ways genetics can affect individual differences in emotional perception and human subjectivity. The team wants to explore how this phenomenon takes place across ethnic groups. More than half of Caucasians are believed to have the ADRA2b gene variant, but statistics suggest it is significantly less in other ethnicities.

A gene identified last year could be the polar opposite of the ADRA2b gene. Researchers writing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry discovered what they are calling the Santa Clause gene, or FTO. This gene was linked to an eight percent reduction in the risk of depression, as well as being a major contributor to obesity. The group said that four different studies support their conclusion of linking the Santa Clause gene with a drop in depression and a risk of obesity.