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August 15, 2008

Gene genie

A study published in the journal Behavioural Neuroscience suggests variations in the COMT gene may account for different reactions to horror films. Some people scream while others - for example, me - laugh (hat tip to Agent Bedhead).

A particular variant of the 'COMT' gene affects a chemical in the brain that is linked to anxiety, they have found. People who have two copies of one version of the gene are more easily disturbed when viewing unpleasant pictures, the scientists discovered. That version of the gene weakens the effect of a signalling chemical in the brain that helps control certain emotions.

The scientists found that those carrying two copies of it were significantly more startled by frightening images than others. By contrast, those who had one copy of the gene and one copy of another version were able to keep their emotions in check far more readily.

I am going to go out on a limb here. Many people react to disturbing images by blaming themselves or those nearest to them for the horror; by attempting to make the images stop by denial, conspiracy theory or surrender.

And some of us develop a cold rage and a determination to make certain nothing like it ever happens again. People with our genetic variant are called "sane".

Posted by Ghost of a flea at August 15, 2008 07:01 AM