Is there a thin genetic line between happiness and depression?

Posted on July 20, 2016

'Nature vs. nurture'
Prof. Fox notes that when "you take a gene that is linked to mental illness, and compare people who have the same genetic variant, it becomes clear that what happens to their mental health is based on their environment."

Profs. Fox and Beevers note that negative cognitive biases and genetic variation have been linked with risk of psychopathology in independent research lines. However, they believe these research fields can be combined.

"We propose that gene by environment (G x E) interactions may be mediated by selective cognitive biases and that certain forms of genetic 'reactivity' or 'sensitivity' may represent heightened sensitivity to the learning environment in a 'for better' and 'for worse' manner," they write.

The two psychology researchers discuss their differential susceptibility hypothesis, which asserts that in similar group sizes of more and less susceptible individuals, there will be no main genetic effect, but rather a crossover interaction with susceptible people doing worse in negative environments but better in positive environments, compared with less susceptible people.

According to the researchers, however, little is known about the psychological and biological mechanisms that are behind differential susceptibility.

As such, they recommend cognitive processing of emotional information as a way to positively harness how differential susceptibility affects psychological well-being.

'Potential to lead to real breakthroughs'
"We suggest that while no gene 'causes' mental ill health, some genes can make people more sensitive to the effects of their environment," says Prof. Fox.

"If you have those genes and are in a negative environment, you are likely to develop the negative cognitive biases that lead to mental disorders. If you have those genes but are in a supportive environment, you are likely to develop positive cognitive biases that increase your mental resilience."

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Category(s):Depression, Happiness

Source material from Medical News Today


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