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"Novelty" gene

Alan J. Robinson robin073 at maroon.tc.umn.edu
Thu Jan 4 09:07:52 EST 1996

On 4 Jan 96 01:42:19 -0800, 
Richard Norman  <RNorman at msn.com > wrote:

>It is the reverse argument that I seriously question.  Is it really
>proper to call a particular dopamine receptor the "novelty" gene?
>It seems to me that the nicotinic receptor gene should be called the
>"suffocation" gene because if I block its product, the most 
>noticeable effect is that the subject suffocates!  Of course, there 
>might be a 
>few other motor deficits, but lack of breathing is certainly the 
>most striking outcome!
>Is it not much more likely that that particular receptor is involved
>in a myriad of circuits/systems/pathways, but that "novelty" seems
>to be one that was caught by a particular test?


This is all fully explained in the scientific literature (plus see 
the news release).

Some of Cloninger's work was written up in the book several years ago 
by two journalists from the Wall Street Journal (Genome - Bishop and 
Waldholz???) but I don't remember if it discussed this topic.

There is an excellent opportunity here for science writers to 
popularize this and related work - I'm not in a position to write 
this book myself, but would be willing to assist (writing and 
scientific) professionals in this area.   

Exploratory behavior by animals is a major part of their 
repetoire.   It was recognized early on that animals differed 
considerably in their willingness to explore, and that this 
behavioral trait was under genetic control.  It was Zuckerman 
who first came up with the concept of "sensation seeking" in 
humans, which is closely related.  The gene is question contributes 
about 10% of the variation in this trait.

In humans, this genetic trait is associated with susceptibility 
to a number of psychiatric disorders which until now have 
been very difficult to treat - e.g. antisocial personality 
and substance abuse.

Incidentally, the news release said that this was the first gene
to be associated with a single personality trait, which strictly 
speaking is true, but there have been previous related discoveries in 
this field, e.g. the work on CYP2D6 and the dopamine D2 receptor.


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