Six genes found to control one’s personality, affect health, well-being

Six genes have been found to be at the heart of emotional response and meaning perception, in turn making up one’s personality, including their outlook and functioning, according to new research.

These genes were also found to be “highly preserved” throughout evolution, from single-celled organisms to modern humans, a finding that researchers said confirms their crucial role in the functioning of all forms of life on Earth.

The study examined how personality regulates an individual’s gene expression and hence, affects their health and well-being. Gene expression happens at the fundamental level of one’s being where genes translate into observable traits and behaviour.

The researchers said the findings shed new light on the “long-standing mystery” behind how the mind and body interact.

The international team of researchers, including genetics and psychology specialists, led by the University of Grenada, Spain, employed artificial intelligence in analysing data of 459 adults in Finland collected over four decades.

Data was collected on participants’ health, physical condition and lifestyle, along with their personality assessments regarding habits and emotional response (temperament), and goals and values (character).

“In our research, we made two key discoveries about the expression and organisation of genes according to the personality profiles of these individuals,” explained Coral del Val, a researcher at the University of Grenada, and co-lead author of the study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The researchers discovered a network of 4,000 genes expressed in specific brain regions, and some of which have been previously linked to the inheritance of human personality. They found these genes to be clustered into several modules, involved in regulating gene expression and helping an individual adapt.

“The modules turned on and off in a flexible manner, facilitating adaptation to the everyday challenges we all face, and choreographing our development,” said del Val.

“What’s most remarkable is the fact that the networks for emotion and meaning (and controlling these modules) are coordinated by a control centre made up of six genes,” said Elisa Daz de la Guardia-Bolvar, University of Grenada, the other co-lead author of the study.

“It is particularly interesting that we found that the six genes of the control hub are highly preserved throughout evolution, from single-celled organisms to modern humans. This finding confirms their beneficial role in regulating the functioning of all forms of life on Earth,” she said.

The researchers also found that while certain outlooks on life are conducive to a healthy, fulfilling and long life, others lead to a stressful, unhealthy and short life.