Genetics and happiness (or the relative lack thereof)


Have you ever met a person that hardly ever looks happy? For some, the sun in the sky and the breeze on the ocean is a cause for celebration, while for other it is irrelevant to their happiness. Apparently, the weather is not the issue. Genetics play a huge role in whether positive events improve peoples mood.

In one study, more than 600 people were given an alarm set to go off at an unpredictable time, and a notebook to write down which important things happened between the alarms and for self-assessment of emotional condition at that time (extra karma for the researchers promoting self-reflection). DNA samples were also collected during the experiment.

The main point is that it was noticed that people who possess one type of the COMT-gene saw their emotional condition improve significantly after positive things happening, whereas those with the other type recorded an insignificant improvement. Moreover, even after the best event of the day for the people with the fast form of COMT-protein, their mood saw the same effect as a moderate event for the people with the slow form. COMT is a protein that de-activates dopamine, our satisfaction hormone. The more active it is, the quicker dopamine is de-activated and the less satisfaction we have. On contrary, if the said gene is slower, dopamine stays within brain synapses for a longer time, and respectively satisfaction remains for a longer time. The “happier” participants more frequently happened to possess the gene coding the slow type of COMT-protein. So it looks like some of us were born to see the world more positively than others. Every one of us is able to feel joy by slowing the COMT-ferment either consciously or subconsciously, but for the sake of variety, nature has made its own default settings.

It is interesting that people having the slow COMT gene are worse at verbalizing emotions: it’s harder for them to assess the emotional intensity of the words they use. Having put such people into an MRI, scientists found that it happens because of weak activation of callosal convolution. As for intellect, those with the slow COMT variant are just as smart as anyone else.  At the same time, those with the slow COMT gene tend to have more sexual partners, likely due to nucleotide metabolism and the higher level of joy slow-COMT people get from sexual activity.

Such kind of approach is used in crafting of personal genomic advice in our DNA LifeStyle Coach…/article/pii/S1053811910015995

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