Wednesday 25 February 2009

Feeling groovy/Feeling hoovy

So they've discovered a 'bright side' gene, which, if plentiful, ie. 2 are present, can lead to a life of greater wellbeing. The presence or absence of this gene is being attributed as a key factor in "resilience to general life stress", deciding whether a person is "neurotic and anxious" or able to take things as they come and not worry too much about the future.

Genetic tests on the participants showed that a tendency to ignore negative images and dwell on the positive ones was strongly linked to a variation in a gene that controls serotonin, the brain's main feelgood chemical.

Each of us inherits two versions of the gene, either two short ones, two long ones, or one of each. People who had two longs versions were most likely to focus on the positives, according to the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

I wonder, though, how much other parts of the system aswell as cultural factors, come into play in ultimately deciding behaviour. Is it really that bald? A question of 'ignoring negative images'? I mean, humans are so much more complex than that. An artist, storyteller or forensic detective may, for instance, have a tremendous interest in the 'negative', as a source of wildly interesting human behaviour. Anyone who wants to explore life at all will have to jump into a sea of what in certain company would be called 'negative'. We are not exclusively positive entitites! Sure if we didn't 'dwell on the negative' sometimes, we'd be glossing over images of horror in the world, without a care in the world, wouldn't we? Or would our two optimism genes actually make it easier for us to gaze into those caverns of dark humanity?

Gene stories are the old wives tales of our time. They are stories we are told about our condition, stories that we have no way of verifying objectively, but which can be interesting entry points yet again into exploring this wild human nature. Or they can make you feel very very depressed indeed. And nervous. And anxious.

I wonder if Ireland is a classic example of an entire country of people firing ahead on two full bright side genes. You'd need them, every time you listen to the radio these days.

So. Which one are you, do you think? Two longs, two short genes or one of each? The glass half full, or empty? The glass being fucking addled with poison either way, or grand sure, lovely, delighted to be here?


  1. I would have to guess that I have 1 of each, funny thing is, I bet most people would guess this, it's so hard to be objective...

  2. Yeah, I think there are so many complicating factors, it's not as easy to see as, for instance the stamina/strength gene disparity. Have you heard about that one? I might have to blog it and then make a gene label. We might have to start talking about genes more around here.

  3. Gene stories are indeed among the old wives tales of our time, together with so many others we assert that we 'understand', being scientific and all: 'cholesterol', 'chemical imbalances' in the brain, and on and on and on. Ain't saying I don't accept most scientific models of the way things work -- just that I come close to taking them on faith, and I don't think I'm alone.

  4. Yes, I think actually this is a rich vein of thought to wonder at and explore. So much of these notions pored over in research labs come through to the rest of us in anecdotal ways, and a kind of pseudo-scientific/properly-neurotic mulch can ensue. There are codes of behaviour everywhere, anywhere you look, really. What's right and what ain't right according to different ideals.

    It's a question of how accessible this stuff is to us, how deep our understanding of it goes. Some people think painkillers are a medical cure for a headache. And at that level, western medicine becomes quackdoctory.