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Forgetfulness and its Link to Genetics

by learningdiscoveries on August 13, 2014

Have you ever been on your mobile phone and almost had a panic attack when you couldn’t “find” it? How about putting your sunglasses on the top of your head and then frantically searching for them in your handbag? Or forgetting that your car keys were actually in the freezer?

It happens.

These incidents might sound harmless and seem to be only pure annoyance. Yet once we take a closer look, the short-term memory lapse could become a more serious problem or even hazardous if it occurs while you are driving or in the workplace. Most people have experienced these symptoms before but could be more common for some people than others.

What causes the short-term memory lapse and the attention deficits? New study from the University of Bonn led by Prof. Dr. Martin Reuter and Dr. Sebastian Markett from the Department for Differential and Biological Psychology shows that all these symptoms could be related to a genetic factor.

Through their research, a linkage between usual everyday memory lapses and the variants in the DRD2 gene was found. Those who have a certain variant of this DRD2 gene are more easily distracted and experience a significantly higher incidence of lapses that caused by a lack of attention.

The DRD2 gene or Dopamine receptor D2 gene has an essential function in signal transmission within the frontal lobes of the brain. Everybody carries the DRD2 gene, which comes in two variants. The one variant has C (cytosine) in one locus, which is displaced by T (thymine) in the other.

The University of Bonn’s psychologists ran a test as a part of their research project on this particular topic. 500 women and men had their saliva sample taken for examination using molecular biology method. The test results showed that about a quarter of the subjects exclusively had the DRD2 gene with the cytosine nucleobase, while three quarters were the genotype with at least one thymine base.

The scientists then used a self-assessment method to find out whether this genetic variant plays a part on the forgetfulness symptoms and the results showed a significant connection.

The research discovered that the subjects with the thymine DRD2 variant suffer more from forgetfulness or attention deficits while the cytosine type are more protected from such symptoms. Other studies also show similar results.

Carrying a gene with a higher risk of forgetfulness and attention deficits can be blamed on pure chance. However, there are strategies that can be developed to compensate the fault in the gene and can help people with the forgetfulness symptoms cope with their daily life with fewer incidents. These strategies include writing notes or making an effort to be specific about where to put things in each location.

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Rosemary Boon

Registered Psychologist

M.A. (Psych),
Grad. Dip. Ed. Studies (Sch. Counsel),
Grad Dip. Ed. B Sc, Dip. Nut.

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