Oxytocin Gene Linked to Optimism

UCLA scientists have discovered a gene linked to positivity, self-worth and self-belief.   The oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is a hormone whose level raises in response to stress. “I have been looking for this gene for a few years, and it is not the gene I expected. I knew there had to be a gene for these psychological resources,” commented Shelley E. Taylor, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and senior author of the new research.

Taylor were assessed 326 people for attributes of  self-esteem, positive attitudes and optimism. The DNA from the subjects’ saliva was analyzed for the variants in the OXTR gene. They were also told to fill questionnaires for gauging their depressive symptoms and risk for mental health issues. The team found that at a specific region, the oxytocin receptor appears to have 2 versions an ‘A’ known as adenine variant and a ‘G’ called the guanine variant. Initial studies have revealed that persons with a minimum of one A variant seem to have weak social skills, increased reactivity to stress and bad mental responses.

The analysts found that individuals with 2 ‘A’ nucleotides or 1 ‘A’ and 1 ‘G’ variant at this particular area on the oxytocin receptor gene supposedly have very low levels of optimism, self-esteem and mastery along with substantially greater proportions of depressive symptoms as compared to people with 2 ‘G’ nucleotides.

“Even those with variant A can cope with stress and depression.” Taylor said, “They ought to train themselves to think of good things in life, view themselves as better and increase self-belief. She concludes that though genes indicate actions and behavior, they do not determine it.” The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).