Is There An Adventure Gene?

Delia Ephron got me thinking, so I researched this, and you are about to know the result, but first a bit about writing

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Photo: Delia Ephron, Wikimedia Commons

Escapes” are what all of us need, especially in this world that is anything but normal. For me, it used to be reading until I felt bled out from all the reading I’ve done to keep up with what is “news” these days — pandemic, deaths, horrific climate change.

As a psychologist, I know about self-care and how important it is, but was I doing that? What to do? Ah, return to my prior refuge, reading. (BTW, the algorithm wanted to make that “refuse.”)

But what should I read to aid me in this escape I so sorely needed? No, not one of those books trashing political figures or exclaiming how they’d help me find a new purpose in life if only from bone-crushing exercises in hot rooms or drinking concoctions I assume were meant for desperate settlers in Amazon forests. Long sentence, I know, but let me assure you that it’s absolutely, 100% necessary. Editors, please take note of this possible bias.

If famous writers can take a switchblade of a computer to the English language, why can’t I? Or must I slavishly follow the dictates of algorithms in the “writing helper” apps I’ve bought? Those apps haven’t caught up with our current language it seems to me, so I question their suggestions. And I’ve seen the mistakes they’ve have me make.

Ok, so I’m not a famous writer but a fairly well-known psychologist thanks to too many TV appearances for over a decade. You can Google me if you are so inclined, but I will not apologize for my appearances. Some of the shows were then and now cringe-worthy, I admit. Others caused a rain of anger (I commented on college counseling centers and training new counselors).

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Photo by Distingué CiDDiQi

The Audible Escape and Me

Yes, I have a collection of Audible books cooling in my laptop, waiting for me to listen to them. Yes, I need digital books because a collection of 2K physical books taxed my living spaces. Out they went to needy readers.

The audiobooks have been rediscovered thanks to a cheap (no, read that inexpensive, on-sale) pair of Bluetooth earbuds that freed me from the laptop tether. I like to listen, not have the book announce it is being listened to by blaring out from my MacBook Air onboard speakers.

The buds are freedom and brought me back to Delia Ephron’s book “Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog, Etc.,” where she mentioned her question about an “adventure gene.”

Did she or a close friend have it? Could someone be adventurous if they required comb-outs and make-up in case a photographer was near? It started me down this path. Psychologists are still seeking the unknown in the human genome, so my fate was sealed by that comment Delia made.

The Adventure Gene

And there it was on my first Google search, the adventure gene. Not something that will make you run right out to seek adventure in the wilds of who-knows-where, but a bit of a genetic variation.

One science writer, Dr. Kat Arney, said, “Genes are like ingredients in a recipe — certain genes make a contribution but there isn’t one single gene for, say, wanderlust. Even something like eye colour is not down to one gene.”

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Image DRD4 gene: NIMH.gov

The gene variant, DRD4, is associated with that fun-loving, enjoyment-seeking, perhaps adventurous hormone, dopamine. Nothing dopa about this gene, and it may have contributed to human evolution.

It’s also responsible for the high we feel when we do something daring, like skiing down a double black diamond slope or skydiving out of a plane. In the risk taker’s brain, researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience, there appear to be fewer dopamine-inhibiting receptors — meaning that daredevils’ brains are more saturated with the chemical, predisposing them to keep taking risks and chasing the next high: driving too fast, drinking too much, overspending or even taking drugs.

Delia You May Be Right

The search did find there’s a grain of truth in that “adventure gene.” All of us have that little section of a gene that stirs impulsivity and seeks a rush of discovery, but not all of us have it “expressed” in behavior.

In genetics, gene expression is the most fundamental level at which the genotype gives rise to the phenotype, i.e. observable trait.

The factors of early childhood experiences, learning, and maybe other as-yet-unknown factors or combinations of elements may bring it forth in an impressive way.

Written by

Dr. Farrell is a psychologist, WebMD consultant, SAG/AFTRA member, author, interested in film, writing & health. Website: http://t.co/VT8mvcAvRz

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