I’m calm. And it’s in my genes

I’ve always kind of known that to a degree.  My mom was always just a super-stable, even-keeled person who was very much able to roll with whatever life had to offer.  And I’ve always pretty much been the same way.  I don’t get much anxiety at all (except when I have good cause, e.g., discovering your child has a rare genetic disorder) and I typically recover from most traumatic events pretty easily.  Rather than think this makes me better than other people, I’ve just always been grateful for what I have always taken to be my genetic inheritance.

Thus, I found this essay in the Times super-interesting as it talks about a gene variant which I am pretty damn sure I have:

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a genetic variation in the brain makes some people inherently less anxious, and more able to forget fearful and unpleasant experiences. This lucky genetic mutation produces higher levels of anandamide — the so-called bliss molecule and our own natural marijuana — in our brains.

In short, some people are prone to be less anxious simply because they won the genetic sweepstakes and randomly got a genetic mutation that has nothing at all to do with strength of character. About 20 percent of adult Americans have this mutation. Those who do may also be less likely to become addicted to marijuana and, possibly, other drugs — presumably because they don’t need the calming effects that marijuana provides.

That’s me alright.  I’ve also never had any interest in personally using drugs, because they always seemed to offer very little benefit for the costs (including financial).  I’ve been inebriated on a few occasions (and I might as well mention that this played a role in starting the relationship which is now my 20 year marriage), but in general, I have felt like any intoxication just didn’t really have a lot to offer me.  And now we know why– my brain has it’s own natural marijuana.  And without the cognitive dulling that comes from taking the real thing!

There’s lots more good stuff in here about the nature of anxiety as well as marijuana use and the endocannabinoid system in the brain.  You should read it.  As for me, it was kind of amazing to read this and feel like they’ve found the gene that explains so much of my personality.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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