Forgetful? It Could Be Genetic

forgetfulA new study shows how being forgetful may actually be genetic. A specific gene, when present, causes a disruption in the brain which halts the ability to remember. People who are forgetful struggle every day with misplacing their keys, entering a room without remembering what they went in for and have trouble remember important dates. And those are just the little things. Minor memory lapses can results in bigger problems. Forgetting important dates and events can affect relationships and not being able to stay on task can cause trouble at work. But Alzheimer’s and dementia are not always to blame. While aging or emotional problems may contribute to being forgetful too, it may actually be due to genetic makeup.

Psychologists at the University of Bonn believe the DRD2 gene may be to blame for frequent episodes of forgetfulness. The team had done previous lab research on the dopamine D2 receptor gene, which indicated that it played a part in forgetful behavior. This gene signals transitions to the frontal lobe of the brain. It helps transmit dopamine. When it fails, it can interfere with daily activities, both trivial and important. It can cause frustration with misplaced items and constantly losing one’s train of thought.

Dr. Martin Rueter from the Department of Differential and Biological Psychology at the University of Bonn and Dr. Sebastian Markett authored the study. Their research is expected to appear in the journal Neuroscience Letters in May 2014, but can be accessed online now. The study found a link between this gene and people who are forgetful.

They explained that the lapses in memory that people often experience could be caused by genetic factors. They studied a total of 500 people, of which 140 were men and 360 were women. The participants averages 24.62 years old and were of European decent. Researchers took samples of their saliva and studied them to determine if they had the DRD2 gene.

Researchers found that one-fourth of the subjects had the DRD2 gene with a cytosine base and three-quarters of them had at least one thymine base. So they set out to determine if the different genetic codes had an impact on their daily behavior and whether or not they were forgetful. They used a survey that required subjects to answer questions regarding their behavior. The self-assessment covered their ability to remain on task, as well as how often they get distracted.

Forgetful behavior, they concluded, was more common in subjects with the thymine gene. They have more frequent bouts of forgetfulness and have the inability to stay on task than those who have the cytosine base.

One thing the research failed to acknowledge was the difference in forgetfulness in men and women, as studies have in the past. Their focus, however, was on the role of the DRD2 gene in forgetful behavior and they did find a correlation with the specific variant.

Markett said that people who are more forgetful may be able to blame it on their genes, but they can offset it fairly easily. He suggests devising a strategy using sticky notes, reminders and routines to help correct the forgetfulness.

By Tracy Rose


Science Direct
University of Bonn

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