Have We Found The “Overhype Gene”?

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In Scientific American, John Horgan criticizes psychiatrist Richard Friedman’s effusive portrayal in the New York Times of a study that allegedly identified the “feel-good” gene in humans.

Horgan quotes Friedman: “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 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.”

Horgan then writes: “This article, like the one [by Lawrence Altman] touting the alcoholism gene 25 years ago, was written by a physician, Richard Friedman, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. I emphasize this fact because scientific hype is often blamed on supposedly ignorant journalists like me rather than on physicians and other so-called experts… Friedman’s article is, in effect, an extremely dumbed down, sensationalized press release…”

N.Y. Times Hype of “Feel-Good Gene” Makes Me Feel Bad (Scientific American, March 13, 2015)

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3 COMMENTS

  1. ““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 natural marijuana — in our brains.”
    Even if that was true – how is that a good thing? We need anxiety and ability to remember bad experiences – it’s simply necessary for survival.