Gene Linked to Optimism and Self-Esteem
Why can some people make it through difficult times with little trouble while others crumble under the same circumstances? A new study suggests that the answer lies—at least in part—in your genes.
Dr. Shelley E. Taylor and Shimon Saphire-Bernstein of the University of California, Los Angeles, and their colleagues set out to determine if theseOXTR alleles might also contribute to optimism, mastery and self esteem. The scientists asked 326 volunteers to complete questionnaires that measured the 3 psychological resources and also assessed depressive symptoms. The researchers analyzed the DNA from the participants’ saliva to find variations in the OXTR gene. The study was funded by NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Science Foundation.
As reported on September 13, 2011, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found that people who had 1 or 2 copies of the OXTR gene with an “A” (adenine) allele at a particular location tended to have more negative measurements than those with 2 copies of the “G” (guanine) allele. People with an A allele were less optimistic, had lower self-esteem and felt less personal mastery than people with 2 G alleles. In addition, the A allele was linked to higher levels of depressive symptoms. Follow-up analyses suggested that the effects ofOXTR variants on depression are largely mediated by the gene’s influence on psychological resources.
The scientists say their findings are the first to link OXTR directly to specific psychological resources. But the gene itself is far from the only factor influencing these traits.
The researchers are now planning studies to search for additional genes that might work with OXTR to affect behavior and responses to stress.
—by Vicki Contie