Thursday, July 2, 2015

Article: How your brain reacts to emotional information is influenced by your genes

One long standing cultural conflict is between the idea that humans are a blank slate and the idea that humans have a recognizable "human nature."

The "blank slate" idea is the idea, more common on the political left, that humans have no single basic nature and that any evil they do is because they have been corrupted by (usually Western) culture. 

The "human nature" idea is the idea, more common on the political right, that humans have a "hard-wired" nature that can only be modified by upbringing and that has both good and evil aspects. 

Orthodox Christianity holds that all humans have a "fallen" nature that is less than perfect and is corrupt by nature, even if all humans are capable of good. 

Marism explicitly accepts the blank slate idea. One of the outworkings of this idea is that there are no inherent differences between classes, sexes, races, or ethnic groups. Therefore, any apparent differences are due to oppression by the dominant group. For example, a lack of female scientists is soley due to the dominant group, men, keeping women out, rather than a lack of women trying to get in. 
Your genes may influence how sensitive you are to emotional information, according to new research by a neuroscientist. The study found that carriers of a certain genetic variation perceived positive and negative images more vividly, and had heightened activity in certain brain regions.
Or, paraphrased, your genes influence how much empathy you show. People who have a specific gene react more strongly to emotions and that this reaction is hard-wired into your brain. 
"People really do see the world differently," says lead author Rebecca Todd, a professor in UBC's Department of Psychology. "For people with this gene variation, the emotionally relevant things in the world stand out much more." 
Todd believes this may help explain why some people are more susceptible to PTSD and intrusive memories following trauma. 
The ADRA2b deletion variant appears in varying degrees across different ethnicities. Although roughly 50 per cent of the Caucasian population studied by these researchers in Canada carry the genetic variation, it has been found to be prevalent in other ethnicities. For example, one study found that just 10 per cent of Rwandans carried the ADRA2b gene variant.
In other words, Caucasians are much more likely to be attuned to the emotional states of others than Rwandans. This raises the question how common is this gene variant in other populations? 

ADRA2b insertion variant appears to be correlated with hypertention, but inversersely correlated with type 2 diabetes in ethnic Han Chinese men. 

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