Quick to Laugh or Smile? It May Be in Your Genes

Posted Jun 13, 2015

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Why do some people immediately burst into laughter after a humorous moment, while others can barely crack a smile? New research examining emotional reactivity suggests one of the answers may lie in a person’s DNA.
 
In a new study linking a gene to positive emotional expressions such as smiling and laughing, researchers demonstrated that people with a certain genetic variant—those with short alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR—smiled or laughed more while watching cartoons or subtly amusing film clips than people with long alleles.
 
Previous research has linked the gene to negative emotions; the study provides the strongest evidence to date that the same gene is also linked to positive emotional expressions.
 
The research appears online in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion. Claudia M. Haase of Northwestern University and Ursula Beermann of the University of Geneva co-authored the study, which was conducted at the University of California, Berkeley.
 
In the study, the scientists looked at short and long alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR, which is involved in the regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter implicated in depression and anxiety.
 
An allele is a variant of a gene. Each gene has two alleles; humans inherit one allele from their mom and one from their dad.
 
Early research suggested that the short alleles predicted unwanted or negative outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. People with short alleles were found to have higher negative emotions than those with long alleles. But the latest study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that people with short alleles also may be more sensitive to the emotional highs of life.
 
“Having the short allele is not bad or risky,” said Haase, an assistant professor in the Human Development and Social Policy program at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. “Instead, the short allele amplifies emotional reactions to both good and bad environments."
 
“Our study provides a more complete picture of the emotional life of people with the short allele,” Haase added. “People with short alleles may flourish in a positive environment and suffer in a negative one, while people with long alleles are less sensitive to environmental conditions.”
 
“The fundamental truth of genes is that they don’t have the final say,” said senior author Levenson, a leading researcher in human emotions and professor in the department of psychology at UC-Berkeley. “There’s always an interaction between nature and nurture that shapes outcomes, and this study is another example of that.”
Source: Northwestern University, http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015/06/quick-to-laugh-or-smile-it-may-be-in-your-genes.html
Why do some people immediately burst into laughter after a humorous moment, while others can barely crack a smile? New research examining emotional reactivity suggests one of the answers may lie in a person’s DNA.
 
In a new study linking a gene to positive emotional expressions such as smiling and laughing, researchers demonstrated that people with a certain genetic variant—those with short alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR—smiled or laughed more while watching cartoons or subtly amusing film clips than people with long alleles.
 
Previous research has linked the gene to negative emotions; the study provides the strongest evidence to date that the same gene is also linked to positive emotional expressions.
 
The research appears online in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion. Claudia M. Haase of Northwestern University and Ursula Beermann of the University of Geneva co-authored the study, which was conducted at the University of California, Berkeley.
 
In the study, the scientists looked at short and long alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR, which is involved in the regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter implicated in depression and anxiety.
 
An allele is a variant of a gene. Each gene has two alleles; humans inherit one allele from their mom and one from their dad.
 
Early research suggested that the short alleles predicted unwanted or negative outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. People with short alleles were found to have higher negative emotions than those with long alleles. But the latest study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that people with short alleles also may be more sensitive to the emotional highs of life.
 
“Having the short allele is not bad or risky,” said Haase, an assistant professor in the Human Development and Social Policy program at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. “Instead, the short allele amplifies emotional reactions to both good and bad environments."
 
“Our study provides a more complete picture of the emotional life of people with the short allele,” Haase added. “People with short alleles may flourish in a positive environment and suffer in a negative one, while people with long alleles are less sensitive to environmental conditions.”
 
“The fundamental truth of genes is that they don’t have the final say,” said senior author Levenson, a leading researcher in human emotions and professor in the department of psychology at UC-Berkeley. “There’s always an interaction between nature and nurture that shapes outcomes, and this study is another example of that.”
Source: Northwestern University, http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015/06/quick-to-laugh-or-smile-it-may-be-in-your-genes.html
Why do some people immediately burst into laughter after a humorous moment, while others can barely crack a smile? New research examining emotional reactivity suggests one of the answers may lie in a person’s DNA.
 
In a new study linking a gene to positive emotional expressions such as smiling and laughing, researchers demonstrated that people with a certain genetic variant—those with short alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR—smiled or laughed more while watching cartoons or subtly amusing film clips than people with long alleles.
 
Previous research has linked the gene to negative emotions; the study provides the strongest evidence to date that the same gene is also linked to positive emotional expressions.
 
The research appears online in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion. Claudia M. Haase of Northwestern University and Ursula Beermann of the University of Geneva co-authored the study, which was conducted at the University of California, Berkeley.
 
In the study, the scientists looked at short and long alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR, which is involved in the regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter implicated in depression and anxiety.
 
An allele is a variant of a gene. Each gene has two alleles; humans inherit one allele from their mom and one from their dad.
 
Early research suggested that the short alleles predicted unwanted or negative outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. People with short alleles were found to have higher negative emotions than those with long alleles. But the latest study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that people with short alleles also may be more sensitive to the emotional highs of life.
 
“Having the short allele is not bad or risky,” said Haase, an assistant professor in the Human Development and Social Policy program at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. “Instead, the short allele amplifies emotional reactions to both good and bad environments."
 
“Our study provides a more complete picture of the emotional life of people with the short allele,” Haase added. “People with short alleles may flourish in a positive environment and suffer in a negative one, while people with long alleles are less sensitive to environmental conditions.”
 
“The fundamental truth of genes is that they don’t have the final say,” said senior author Levenson, a leading researcher in human emotions and professor in the department of psychology at UC-Berkeley. “There’s always an interaction between nature and nurture that shapes outcomes, and this study is another example of that.”
Source: Northwestern University, http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015/06/quick-to-laugh-or-smile-it-may-be-in-your-genes.html

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