Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gene variations can be barometer of behavior, choices

22.07.2009
Michael Frank, of the Brown Institute for Brain Science, has determined that variations of three different genes in the brain can predict whether individuals will make certain choices. His work, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Arizona, will be published in the August 2009 edition of Nature Neuroscience.

Researchers at Brown University and the University of Arizona have determined that variations of three different genes in the brain (called single-nucleotide polymorphisms) may help predict a person’s tendency to make certain choices.

By testing DNA samples from saliva in conjunction with computerized cognitive tests, researchers found that the certain gene variations could be connected to certain choices — focusing on decisions that previously produced good outcomes, avoiding negative outcomes, or trying unfamiliar things even though an outcome is uncertain.

“In some cases, single genes can have surprisingly strong influences on particular aspects of behavior,” said Michael J. Frank, assistant professor of cognitive and linguistic science, psychology, and psychiatry and human behavior. Frank, lead author of the research, directs the Laboratory for Neural Computation and Cognition in the Brown Institute for Brain Science.

Frank worked with Brown graduate student Bradley Doll and collaborated with geneticists Francisco Moreno and Jen Oas-Terpstra of the University of Arizona. Research findings will be published in the August 2009 Nature Neuroscience and will be available online July 20. The paper builds on research Frank conducted while he was at the University of Arizona.

The study examined the effects of three genes that control aspects of dopamine function in the brain while participants performed a computerized decision-making task. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps keep the central nervous symptom functioning. Its levels fluctuate as the brain feels motivated or rewarded.

Varations in two of the genes — DARPP-32 and DRD2 — independently predicted the degree to which people responded to outcomes that were better or worse than expected, by reinforcing approach and avoidance type behaviors. These genes affect dopamine processes in the basal ganglia portion of the brain. Frank said this is important for “simple reinforcement of learning processes that you might not even be aware of.”

Frank and the other researchers also studied exploratory decision-making — the choices people make when they are in “uncharted territory.” They found that variations in a third gene — COMT — predicted the extent to which people explored decisions when they were uncertain whether the decisions might produce better outcomes.

COMT affects dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex, known as an executive center of the brain. Frank said this level might be needed to “prevent the more basic motivational learning system from always taking control over behavior, so as to gather more information and prevent getting stuck in a rut.”

Frank said the findings could have some interesting implications. “We cannot say on the basis of one or two studies,” he said, “but if a student isn’t doing well in a particular learning environment, [a gene study could show that the student] may be well-suited to a particular teaching style.”

The data could help shape future treatments for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, which involves dopamine loss. Treatment options now lead to unwanted side effects.

“Medications that increase dopamine stimulation can help treat debilitating aspects of the disease but in some patients the meds can induce pathological gambling and impulsivity,” he said.

Frank suggested that genetic factors involved in influencing motivational processes in the brain could someday help predict which patients would be negatively impacted by particular medications.

Seventy-three college students, with a median age of 19, took part in the study.

Scientists took saliva samples, from which they extracted DNA and analyzed the genes with subsequent computerized cognitive tests. Subjects watched a clock face, on which the arrow revolved around for five seconds, during which the subjects were to press a button once to try to win points. The subjects did not know that the statistics of their reward depended on their response time, and they had to learn to adjust their responses to increase the number of points they could win.

That data was then fed into a biologically based computer model that quantified the learning and exploration processes on a trial-by-trial basis. These variables were then compared against different genes.

A grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Mental Health funded the research.

Mark Hollmer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient
18.10.2017 | KU Leuven

nachricht Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment
17.10.2017 | McMaster University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers release the brakes on the immune system

18.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient

18.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>