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Science

Gene Variant Can Cause Nattering Nabobs of Negativity 171

Posted by timothy
from the I-see-the-outpatients-are-out-in-force-tonight dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes "Researchers from the University of British Columbia, Cornell University and Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health report in the journal Psychological Science [abstract; press release] that a gene variant can cause individuals to perceive the negative side of every situation. UBC Prof. Rebecca Todd said the ADRA2b deletion variant influences not only emotional memory, which was previously known, but also amplifies a person's real-time perception of events, for better or for worse. 'Some individuals are predisposed to see the world more darkly than others,' Todd said. 'What we found is that a previously known genetic variation causes some individuals to perceive the world more vividly than others and, particularly, negative aspects of the world.'"
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Gene Variant Can Cause Nattering Nabobs of Negativity

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    They'll go away.

    • by icebike (68054) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @12:02AM (#45112411)

      They'll go away.

      Exactly, realists are the coal mine canaries of society: "but also amplifies a person's real-time perception of events".
      Maybe instead of calling people who point out negative aspect of grandiose plans Debbie Downers, and nabobs of negatively, it would make more sense to realize that when there are a significant number of people saying "hold on there", that just possibly society is getting ahead of itself and rushing head long down yet another repetitive boondoggle that has failed before.

      • by lxs (131946)

        Ah the depressive-realist school of thought. Better known as the no-fun-at-parties [wikipedia.org] crowd. Once I learned to accept the repetitive boondoggles are inherent in the human condition, most of the depression went away. For a troupe of furless chimps, we're doing alright. [youtube.com]

        • by Saei (3133199)

          Way to trivialize depression as an issue of perspective, cured with a single, simple change.

          If we just accept that things are terrible, and be happy about it, we will be happy about it. Genius.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jeremi (14640)

            Depression is a mental disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and should not be trivialized.

            A negative outlook, on the other hand, is a habit, and like any bad habit, it can be recognized as such and changed.

            Mental health issues aside, there are people out there who make themselves unhappy to no good purpose, e.g. by having unrealistic expectations. For those people, an attitude adjustment is a good idea, as it will make them both happier and more successful.

            • by Nephandus (2953269) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @03:58AM (#45112983)
              Circular argument and intentional selection bias. "Success" there requires constant redefinition to fit whatever the fuck happens. It's both a no true Scotsman fallacy and changing the goalposts. When the "positive" wacko misses something, he pulls a doublethink and redefines his supposed values such that his altered goals arbitrarily fit whatever he happen to hit, so he "succeeded" to hit his completely redefined target. Being unhappy because you're not mindfucked into wanting whatever garbage you're stuck with isn't "no good purpose". Just because your values are lies your constantly rewrite to fit arbitrary conditions doesn't make everyone else's values as utterly meaningless as yours are. Some of us actually value what we value. Shocking, I know...
            • by nospam007 (722110) *

              "A negative outlook, on the other hand, is a habit, and like any bad habit, it can be recognized as such and changed."

              The article says exactly otherwise, it's genetic, willpower is about as effective there as if you wanted to change the size of your dick.
              So nothing you do can change the demotivators at work who continue to depress everybody around them with their bleak view of the world.
              Unless a DNA-test is developed so that you can hire only happy people.

              • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Actually willpower, nutrition, physical activity, etc. may change gene expression to turn it on and off. DNA is not a static structure.
                For instance, go search for: gene expression dna meditation

                THAT is reality, not the fiction that DNA is interpreted one and only one way, and there's nothing we can do about it.
                A little knowledge is dangerous.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Actually, the size of one's dick is quite variable, both in its erect and flaccid state, depending on one's mental state.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Sounds an awful alot like this

              "Stress is the resulting syndrom coming from the surpression of the brain's natural desire to choak the living shit out of idiots"

            • by Anonymous Coward

              The "chemical imbalance" thing is only one of many multiple signs of depression. It's not the "cause" of depression.
              Our brain changes its chemistry all the time in different states, and in the depressed state there are certain chemical patterns, but do not mistake the chemical state of the brain with its causes.

              All emotions map to some chemical consequences in the brain. For positive ones, when we rejoice, love, or laugh, you get endorphins releases. You will be able to monitor a state of increased endorphi

            • Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by a disorder in mentation, and should not be trivialized.

              FTFY.

              Drugs are not the answer. As a group, the "antidepressive" drugs cause more problems than they help, and do not cure anything, but merely hide some of the symptoms. This group also contains some of the worst truly addictive drugs available by prescription or illegally. They are over-prescribed, because it is so much easier to pop a pill than to deal with the depression itself.

            • "Depression is a mental disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain"

              No, that's an explanation made up by pharmaceutical companies to sell £tens of billions of ineffective drugs to the most vulnerable people in society.

              http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8138893.stm [bbc.co.uk]

          • by lxs (131946) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @02:15AM (#45112771)

            I'm sorry if that post came over as flippant, because depression is a problem I do take seriously. At least it got your attention.

            First off, the judgment of terrible is yours, not mine. I merely stated that it's a bloody miracle that a bunch of monkeys has figured out farming, poetry and mathematics and that we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves for not being perfect rational creatures living in Star Trek Utopia.

            Secondly, making happiness a habit does work in practice, and has done for centuries. Buddhism and Stoicism have long traditions in this kind of thought. There is that line from Hamlet: There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.

            This isn't a quick and single simple change, it takes years of practice and you'll have frequent relapses into hopelessness, but it does start with a simple change of perspective.
            Act depressed and you'll feel depressed. Act happy and eventually you'll be happy.

            • He/she is obviously a 'glass is half empty' kind of person, reading negativity into everything. On the bright said, the study said this could be a survival trait.
        • Bobby? Bobby McFerrin? Is that really you?

      • Just so we're clear—you're misusing "realist" there. There is a (somewhat disproven) psychological theory called depressive realism that argues that a certain amount of negativity compensates for wishful thinking, but to take it as a generic label is to presume correctness. You might be better off saying "cynic" or "sceptic."

        The general philosophical term "realist" is just an antonym of solipsist; i.e. someone who believes the world exists (although there's also an artistic term called "realism" which

    • After all, reality has a well-known negative bias.

  • first (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    beta.slashdot.org = vomit

  • A gene that makes me see things negatively? This explains SO MUCH. Please tell me they are working on a way to toggle it off. Just once I'd like to not instinctively see the negative in everything.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The article says that it is believed that nearly half of caucasians have the gene (and, I guess, express it), so nothing terribly new.

      The experiment apparently only shows that those with the gene remember "negative" words better than those who don't, when both are showed a combination of positive, neutral and negative words. So hardly seems like worth-shattering material.

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:26PM (#45112281) Homepage Journal
      Not a gene—just a mutation. Perplexingly, there is a drug that blocks the receptor [wikipedia.org] in question, but it's for treating sexual dysfunction. Possibly a goldmine for witty remarks.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ahh, so all this research is just another marketing gimmick, disguised as science, to sell more drugs.

        There I go again, looking at the dark side of everything.

        Maybe this gene is supposed to help us find the truth since the truth is so often negative. What we need now are a bunch of happy pills to make us all optimistic and naive little sheep.

        • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:55PM (#45112393) Homepage Journal

          Well, no, obviously not; even at the most pessimistic extreme, you'd have to convince a lot of cynics just like yourself that thinking negatively is necessarily a bad thing and that they should shell out biggish bucks to fix it. That's not exactly going to happen, now is it? :)

          Realistically, the utility of understanding this gene variant and producing pharmaceutical remedies is in helping people with clinical depression break down barriers—people so cynical and miserable that they can't function normally. Yohimbine is currently prescribed to people already on antidepressants, though, so I would tend to guess it either doesn't address the effects of the mutation, or fixing it doesn't affect much once you're already on an SSRI.

          That all being said, I do agree with you that cynicism can have its advantages—I have an ongoing hypothesis that childhood isolation and depression encourage the development of independent reasoning skills and hence improve intelligence, although it's a bit untestable still. I was inclined to proposition earlier that perhaps this allele has a meaningful relationship with the development of Western civilization, but that line of inquest gets very Social-Darwinist-sounding very quickly, and isn't exactly a great conversation piece. The reason for this is that as many as 50% of Caucasians are believed to have this allele (much more than other populations), so either it's completely meaningless in the long term and just happened by chance, or it conferred some relevant advantage.

          • by russotto (537200)

            Well, no, obviously not; even at the most pessimistic extreme, you'd have to convince a lot of cynics just like yourself that thinking negatively is necessarily a bad thing and that they should shell out biggish bucks to fix it.

            Of course not. Cynicism is what you get after optimism smacks into the shoals of reality for the Nth time, provided you have this gene variant. If you have the other gene variant, you remain positive no matter how often your optimism fails.

            • by oji-sama (1151023)
              Based on some people I know, I would say that if you have this gene variant you remain negative no matter how often your pessimism fails. But perhaps I'm just being negative. ^.^
              • by russotto (537200)

                Based on some people I know, I would say that if you have this gene variant you remain negative no matter how often your pessimism fails.

                Pessimism's typical failure is that the worst-case failure mode you imagined wasn't bad enough. Of course THAT makes you remain negative.

                On the rare occasions when things turn out better than you expected, it's never long before the reduced pessimism engendered by that event causes you to get bit in the butt again. After THAT happens more than a few times, THEN you becom

            • ADRA2b is probably much more subtle in its effect than that, although we don't have hard numbers for everyday discouragements.
      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Ha.. I can see that working. If I concentrated in all the negative I could see in my sexual partners I likely would have problems performing too.

        How much do you wanna bet that this will be the new ADHD type illness that schools rush to have children treated for. I can see it now, a school without goth.. and a lot more promiscuous kids.

        • Actually, sexual dysfunction is usually about seeing negatives in oneself, not one's partners.

          Personally, I'd like to believe that parents would be too cynical to prescribe anti-cynicism drugs to their kids, but that logic might be a little too convenient to be reality.

      • Not a gene—just a mutation. Perplexingly, there is a drug that blocks the receptor [wikipedia.org] in question, but it's for treating sexual dysfunction. Possibly a goldmine for witty remarks.

        Interestingly, selective serotinin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants) are already used to treat premature ejaculation. As you can imagine, that particular side effect is annoying to people who just want it to fix their depression.

        • And yet Yohimbine is prescribed when SSRIs cause sexual dysfunction. It seems a lot of drugs cause random sex drive side effects; Ritalin can either increase or decrease libido, too.
          • And yet Yohimbine is prescribed when SSRIs cause sexual dysfunction. It seems a lot of drugs cause random sex drive side effects; Ritalin can either increase or decrease libido, too.

            Notably if you read the side effects list of a lot of drugs, the listed side effects often include the thing they are supposed to treat (my favorite is antidepressants listing "depression, anxiety and suicide" as a side effect).

            • Welcome to the wild world of pharmacogenomics [wikipedia.org]. Brain drugs depend on such subtle and variable parts of our genomes that they have a very high chance of backfiring. Antidepressants are particularly awful at this, which is extra-horrific because they take months of side-effects before they actually do the job. Thus there's a lot of money in personalized medicine—a quick test can potentially prevent a toxic reaction or putting a depressive person through years of agony as the therapist tries increasingly
              • Zoloft + alcohol = a fucked up, suicidal personality. I've seen 5 families wrecked over the last 10yrs, 2 ended up in jail. I've also seen Zoloft help people but none of those were drinkers. Alcohol lowers inhibition, Zoloft lowers anxiety. You need some anxiety to tell yourself that what your doing is potentially wrong/dangerous, you need some inhibitions to stop you from compulsively acting out every thought. A good doctor knows all this and will train his patients to self-monitor their anxiety levels whi
  • It might be tempting to say that everyone would be better off if they had this gene expressed in moderation, but I don't think it's quite so simple. Civilizations are no more than breaths in the life of our species, and we have no reason to believe living conditions in ten thousand years will be much like they are now. An appropriate expression of this gene for our current situation might be inappropriate later, so I recommend against removing this variation from our species. Like the variations preserve
    • You mean gene variant, not gene. if you lost ADRA2B [wikipedia.org], you would die. All healthy humans have more or less the same genes.
    • Re:At first blush... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ambassador Kosh (18352) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:37PM (#45112341)

      I like identifying this stuff, quantifying it and maybe even finding temporary ways to control how it works. However I would not recommend actually permanently changing it.

      It is strange because some of this research I don't really want reported to the general public because they don't have the scientific understanding for it but they are willing to leap to an idea and demand it be done. There are some genes that seem likely to be tied to male homosexuality however those same genes are also tied to female fertility. I have seen some people talking about how we should "cure" homosexuals by fixing that gene. What I worry about is that a group could get enough power to try and actually do that. The problem is that we could also end up sterilizing people treated which could be catastrophically bad.

      I just see so many people as misusing research to further their own ideological ends. We need to do this research, we need to understand why stuff happens. We need to know why as a mother has more male children epigenetic markers get set on further male children to change gene expression. There is a LOT we can learn from that. I just don't want to see that research abused. I wish we could get rid of this idiotic idea of XX=female, XY = male. Gender and sex are NOT even close to that simple.

      • Re:At first blush... (Score:5, Informative)

        by muridae (966931) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @12:45AM (#45112517)

        I wish we could get rid of this idiotic idea of XX=female, XY = male. Gender and sex are NOT even close to that simple.

        It would be nice if people could understand that. Or at least understand that XY genotypes can be born expressing a female phenotype, and vice versa; but getting the general populace to believe anything that goes against what they were taught in school is very tough to do. "If it's that complicated, why don't they teach that?" I've actually heard that, as if a high school advance placement A&P or an on level biology course could get through all of that in less than one term. Sure, it makes Punnett squares easy to understand and relate to personal knowledge, but it's so far from right that it needs to just be tossed out of high school classes completely. "23X0, XXY, XYY, AIS, Turner's Syndrome, and lots of other combinations just make teaching simple 2 gene human expression too difficult. There are so many possible mutations of the genes involved, too many ways for multiple genes to combine like discussed about Down's Syndrome, and too many external genes that also influence human sex and gender (and expression of both and sexuality as well) for it to ever be discussed in the simplified manner needed at the high school level."

        Unfortunately, even spelling it out in mostly small words like that doesn't often work. Even getting them to understand that X and Y were picked not because of the shape of the chromosome, which all look like an X during mitosis, but because they were common 'unknowns' in math. When biologists need a new set, they continued with W and Z. "Wiki doesn't say that," results in my face meeting the nearest wall repeatedly, because a facepalm just isn't a strong enough reaction.

      • by Velex (120469)

        Which genes are related to female bisexuality? Can we start a selective breeding campaign?

        Fine, I troll, I troll! I see the point you're making. I wish more people would think this stuff through more thoroughly. There has to be a reason why pessimism and homosexuality don't breed themselves out.

      • by PattyMc (1394421)
        I agree we have to be on the look out for Unintended Consequences. What if we cured bipolar disorder, alcoholism and depression and the milder forms of autism? Would the only art we made be ala Sleeper - Rod McKuen and Walter Keane? I was diagnosed as BPII over 50 years ago. I always drew and painted and my pieces were quite good, an outlet. Ever since menopause and early retirement (stressful job in advertising) I have been sane and have not done one damn thing artistically. Maybe if people could slip in
  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:21PM (#45112271)
    This is going to be the newest thing that every special little snowflake on the internet self-diagnoses with in order to get some attention. It's the next OCD.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:30PM (#45112299)

      I had it first!

    • From TFA:

      [...] it is believed more than half of Caucasians have ADRA2b [...]

      So, y'know. You might have it. The noted effects are minor, but highly certain (p < 0.001 on ANOVA).

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      I see what you did there.

    • by obtuse (79208)

      And your attitude demonstrates what a special snowflake you think that you are. Troll.

    • Sounds like an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.
      • by muridae (966931)
        You must know a lot about those.
        • Whoosh.


          On a related note, anybody else having flashbacks from the old Mrs. Agnew's Diary column?
          • by muridae (966931)

            not at all, just playing my post so you could continue further if you wanted. Sometimes a good gag just needs a straight man to continue, guess your's didn't. Would a gay one have been better?

            And no, most of the Lampoon stuff was from before my time. The little I've found and read were not enough to cause flashbacks. Now, if I had only been on proper 70's medication, maybe the flashbacks would be more vivid.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      When a new problem like this is discovered there are is always a large number of diagnosis that then tail off over time, simply because before it was known people could not be diagnosed with it.

      I expect this will happen to me a couple of times in my life. I have Reiter's Syndrome, which is basically a name given to a bunch of symptoms that are vaguely auto-immune related but very poorly understood. One day someone will figure out the root cause and I'll get a new diagnosis, and hopefully treatment.

      Similar I

  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @12:17AM (#45112439) Homepage

    Well that sucks.

    -

  • Is there a gene variant for always having to express ideas in terns of cliches, idioms, colloquialisms, metaphors, and/or pop-culture references?

  • It's probably the gene that makes me really good at software testing. I have a knack for zeroing in on whatever is screwed up ;)

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:32AM (#45113277)

      It certainly makes a better programmer. Having a negative attitude makes you assume every statement is going to throw an exception sooner than later, so you become obsessive compulsive about handling exceptions. As opposed to other programmers who just toss them and let others deal with them. Or catch and swallow them with an empty TODO comment clause.

      So you end up sitting in design meetings thinking about what can go wrong in a system instead of cheering on how great the design is with the other folks. Unfortunately, I'm the only person in the world who thinks that a new design should be scrubbed with a thorough wash of toxic pessimism.

      Hey, what doesn't kill a design, makes it stronger.

    • by russotto (537200)

      It's probably the gene that makes me really good at software testing. I have a knack for zeroing in on whatever is screwed up ;)

      No, that's a different one. Because software developers have the opposite version, even total pessimists; problems which are reproducible when we aren't around vanish when we are. It's the "works on my machine" gene.

  • > Gene Variant Can Cause Nattering Nabobs of Negativity

    What makes the opposite gene so special? Fuck those Bloviating Brownnosers of Buttkissing.

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @12:55AM (#45112533)
    The gene pool is half empty!
  • I probably have this gene. I doubt they'll be able to find a cure for it. Even if they did, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to afford it. There'll probably be some horrible side effects, too—there always are. Bummer...

  • 'Some individuals are predisposed to see the world more darkly than others,' Todd said. 'What we found is that a previously known genetic variation causes some individuals to perceive the world more vividly than others and, particularly, negative aspects of the world.'"

    • It means that depressed/cynical/apathetic people may have a gene that enables them to see the world more clearly.
      It makes some of us think.
      I just realized why I've been unable to ignore our path straight towards Idiocracy (the planet won't survive, but our path is clear).
  • Anyone interested in this should get a copy of the Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt. If a good thing happens and a similar bad thing happens, most people remember the bad thing. In fact, it takes something way better to happen to cancel out a run-of-the-mill bad thing.

    I think this is why people are preppers and are stockpiling guns and ammo. And, it's why zombie movies are all the rage. America is in a perfect storm for all of it to happen. Why? Because our crazy American worldview mixed with our rel

    • A PBS series described it like this:

      For bad things, it's like your brain and bad things have Velcro on each other, and everything bad thrown at the brain sticks. And for good things, it is like our brains are coated in Teflon; everything good thrown at it slides right off.

      • by UpnAtom (551727)

        Not quite. Negative things can stick around whether we want them to or not. There's no such rule for positive things.

        I will be explaining why in a book.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      Nothing wrong with being a "prepper",that just means being prepared for disasters. Look what happens each and every time there is a power outage or big storm, people mob stores looking for bottled water, ice, flashlights and batteries, etc. Sometimes people in that situation get a little rude and rough with each other too 8D

      Happened in my town a month ago, but I wasn't at the store with the mob scene, I was home relaxing because I already had stocked up for *nothing in particular*, but I grew up in an a

      • by swb (14022)

        My sense is that the best things to have are water and food.

        I figure if I can make fresh water, the food situation will solve itself as after about a month as the people who can't get fresh water will die off or become noncompetitive with illness.

  • A pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist.

  • Anybody knows if this is a location tested by 23andme (or Ancestry)? I've got results from several providers and I'd be curious to see my results, as I'm a fairly negative person.
  • by PPH (736903)

    The consequences of a missed positive opportunity are far less harmful than those of a negative one. I can afford to miss the occasional babe who smiles at me as a come-on. The crazy jealous boyfriend standing behind her carrying the Bowie knife I notice.

    • by russotto (537200)

      The consequences of a missed positive opportunity are far less harmful than those of a negative one. I can afford to miss the occasional babe who smiles at me as a come-on.

      The realist realizes she's smiling at the much better looking guy behind you.

  • by koan (80826)

    It's the reality gene.

  • The downside is... Hmmm, I guess I don't have it.

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