Indeed, learning how to manage one’s response to the negative emotions of others and stay out of trouble is an important life skill. At some point, most of us learn to just avoid angry, mean or melodramatically negative people and save ourselves the strife. Roy Perlis and colleagues, in their recent paper, “Association of a Polymorphism Near CREB1 With Differential Aversion Processing in the Insula of Healthy Participants“, show how the transcriptional regulator CREB might exert an influence on this learning process. By having subjects view images of various facial expressions, the investigators found that individuals with the TT genotype at rs4675690 (C/T) showed less negative activation in the left insula, a brain region that is known to activate when subjects feel disgust, but not happiness, desire or fear. Subjects with the TT genotype have been shown to require more effort in the management of negative emotions and are at greater risk for suicide when being treated for depression. In the Perlis et al., study, TT subjects showed less of an effort (as measured in key presses) to avoid viewing emotionally distressing pictures. The known role of CREB in neural plasticity suggests that this gene may facilitate neural changes associated with memory. Unfortunately, 23andMe does not cover this SNP, so I’ll just have to hope that (during the upcoming election) my insula keeps me on the path to enlightenment.
Update: Thanks so very much Brian for the info on rs7591784. This explains a lot – I’m a GG here, which means I’m a TT at rs4675690 – and have always had difficulty handling it when folks are rude to me.