Some Scream While Others Laugh

‘Ever wondered why horror flicks make some people scream or even faint in theatres at scenes of spinning heads and shaking beds while others laugh? Well, the answer lies in the genes.

A team at Bonn University in Germany has found that a gene, which affects a chemical in the brain that is linked to anxiety, is actually responsible for the two different kinds of behaviour in people watching the same horror movie.

According to researchers, people who have two copies of a particular variant of the ‘COMT‘ gene are more likely to get disturbed when viewing unpleasant pictures — because that version weakens the effect of a signalling chemical in brain that helps control certain emotions.

On the other hand, people who possess just one copy of the gene and one copy of another version could jolly well keep their emotions in check far more readily, British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported.

The researchers have based their findings on a study of around 100 women who were showed three different types of pictures — emotionally “pleasant” ones of smiling babies and cute animals, “neutral” ones of items like electric plugs or hairdryers, and “aversive” ones of weapons or injured victims.

Lead researcher Christian Montag said that he thought the gene variant linked to scaring more easily only recently evolved as it was not present in other primates and propensity to scare more easily could have offered humans an advantage.

“It was an advantage to be more anxious in a dangerous environment,” he said, adding that a single gene variation can account for only some of people’s anxiety differences, or else up to half the population would be anxious.

“This single gene variation is potentially only one of many factors influencing a complex trait as anxiety.

Still, to identify the first candidates for genes associated with an anxiety-prone personality is a step in the right direction,” Montag said. The study has been published in the latest edition of the Behavioural Neuroscience journal

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Sources: Thw Times Of India

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