March 18, 2007
Shyness Gene Activates If Mother Stressed?

A professor at the University of Maryland Child Development Laboratory claims the short version of a gene involved in metabolism of neurotransmitter serotonin combined with stress creates a shy kid.

In a study published in the February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, Nathan Fox, professor and director of the Child Development Laboratory, and his team found that kids who are consistently shy while growing up are particularly likely to be raised by stressed-out parents, and to possess a genetic variant associated with stress sensitivity.

...

Like all genes, the particular serotonin-related gene examined in this study has 2 alleles, which can be long or short. The protein produced by the short form of the gene is known to predispose towards some forms of stress sensitivity.

Fox's research found that among children exposed to a mother's stress, it was only those who also inherited the short forms of the gene who showed consistently shy behavior.

"If you have two short alleles of this serotonin gene, but your mom is not stressed, you will be no more shy than your peers as a school age child," says Fox. "But we found that when stress enters the picture, the gene starts to show a strong relationship to the child's behavior," says Fox. "If you are raised in a stressful environment, and you inherit the short form of the gene, there is a higher likelihood that you will be fearful, anxious or depressed."

From this press release we do not know the sample size of his study. But his result is at least plausible.

Suppose this gene's short version works as advertised. When offspring genetic engineering becomes possible will prospective parents choose to make shyness a thing of the past? Will some future generation be anywhere between extroverted and extremely extroverted? If so, what will we lose? My guess is that governments will become more corrupt as people with genetically engineered lack of shyness feel less fear of getting held up to public condemnation.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 March 18 10:17 PM  Brain Genetics


Comments
Vince said at March 19, 2007 7:56 PM:

"My guess is that governments will become more corrupt as people with genetically engineered lack of shyness feel less fear of getting held up to public condemnation."

I doubt it'd be any worse than the unrepentant jackasses that inhabit politics now.

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