Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Happy Genes

Did you know that your genes are responsible for your overall sense of happiness and depression?

Scientists have discovered that a change in one “letter” of the gene can have effects on an enzyme that controls levels of the mood chemical serotonin in the brain.

Last year, the scientists discovered an enzyme identified as typtophan hydroxylase-2 (Tph2), which was thought to govern the manufacture of serotonin in the brain.
The scientists found that they had a major impact on the amount of serotonin cells produced when studying the enzyme variants. The results showed that a mouse with one variant produced 50% to 70% less serotonin in its brain than a mouse with the other variant.
"This single genetic difference has a huge impact on serotonin levels, confirming that the gene is fundamental in the synthesis of brain serotonin,” said Dr Zhang.

In other recent studies of genetics in twins, scientists from Scotland and Australia also discovered that genes play a significant part in determining how happy we are in life. “Scientists already knew that subjective wellbeing, or how happy we feel, is linked to personality traits. However, until now, nobody had looked at whether personality and subjective wellbeing had any common genetic origins.”

The study was led by Dr Alexander Weiss, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences. Weiss and his colleagues examined 973 pairs of twins, and from the comparisons between the two types of twins (twins with identical genes and different genes), they found that up to 50 per cent of the traits were influenced by genetics. Furthermore, they also pointed out that the other 50 per cent of the differences between people and their happiness can be influenced by relationships, careers and health.
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