Posts Tagged ‘faces’

“A man needs a name” and that man is Riccardo Sabatini. Serious games of -omes happening at Human Longevity.

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Learning to read emotions and faces is important for our well-being.  For some of us, the act of gazing into another person’s eyes is innately rewarding … especially if they are smiling.  New mothers and their infants can be found locked in each others smiling countenance … thus strengthening the developing neural pathways upon which the infant’s future social skills will grow.

One component of these neural pathways is the CNR1 gene expressed in the striatum and other brain regions that process rewarding and positively-reinforcing stimuli.  For most of us, a happy smiling face is positively rewarding … moreso with certain CNR1 genotypes.

From Drs. Baron-Cohen and Chakrabarti:

“A comparison of these results with those from our earlier fMRI study reveals that for the SNP rs806377, the allelic group (CC) associated with the highest striatal response is also associated with the longest gaze duration for happy faces. For rs806380, the allelic group associated with the highest striatal response (GG) is also associated with the longest gaze duration for happy faces.”

My 23andMe profile shows both the long-gaze CC and GG genotypes for rs806377 and rs806380.  Mmmmkay … I guess this would be a good time to apologize to all the girls I inappropriately stared at in the cafeteria back in college … even though you weren’t usually smiling back at me.  I guess my CNR1 and striatum were pretty overactive.

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Hey genome, why U make me stink at networking?

If only there was an allele that LESSENED the apprehensive and uncomfortable feelings I get when meeting new people.

As such negative feelings are the work of my amygdala, I’m wishing for some sort of LOSS-OF-FUNCTION allele that REDUCES the activity of neural circuits involved in the emotional processing of fear … but leaves other neural circuits untouched.

I just want something that takes the edge off new social experiences … yunno?

How about rs33977775 ? It contains a derived (as opposed to ancestral) T-allele that causes a Y135F change that disrupts the binding sites of the NPBWR1 receptor to its neuropeptide ligands (ie. LOSS-OF-FUNCTION).  Amazingly, this receptor has a restricted pattern of gene expression only among limbic circuits involved in emotion and reward processing (ie. EXPRESSED IN EMOTION PROCESSING CIRCUITS ONLY).

In their report, a team of authors measured the reactions of 126 university students to various social stimuli and report that individuals who carry one of these loss-of-function T-alleles (about 30% of the population) show a more positive response to social interactions.

“… the AT group perceived facial expressions more pleasantly than did the AA group, regardless of the category of facial expression. Statistical analysis … also showed that the AT group tended to feel less submissive to an angry face than did the AA group.”

So it seems that rs33977775 may dial down the amygdala response to social stimuli … just enough to ace the job interview, but not so much that you inappropriately hug your new boss. Nice!

Unfortunately, this SNP is not covered by 23andMe v3 and there is no report yet on linkage disequilibrium via 1000 genomes.  Since the frequency of the T-allele is low in African populations (1%) and about 10%-ish in other non-African populations, I guess the odds are that I’m an AA or AT.

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