UGR-Led Study Reveals Link Between Personality and Gene Expression, Unveiling Insights into Mind-Body Interaction

Featured & Cover UGR Led Study Reveals Link Between Personality and Gene Expression Unveiling Insights into Mind Body Interaction

An international research endeavor led by the University of Granada (UGR) and employing artificial intelligence has revealed a significant relationship between human personalities and the expression of genes. This breakthrough provides fresh insights into the intricate dynamics between the mind and body.

The study, documented in Molecular Psychiatry, delves into how an individual’s personality and fundamental perspective on life regulate gene expression, thus influencing their overall health and welfare. This pioneering investigation marks the first instance of gauging genome transcription concerning human personality comprehensively.

Conducted by a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team from the Andalusian Interuniversity Research Institute in Data Science and Computational Intelligence (DaSCI), the UGR’s Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, and the Biohealth Research Institute in Granada (ibs. GRANADA), the research also involved Professor Robert Cloninger from Washington University in St. Louis, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, USA, and participants from the Young Finns Study in Finland.

The Young Finns Study, spanning four decades and encompassing extensive data on participants’ health, physical condition, and lifestyle, served as the foundational dataset. It included thorough personality evaluations covering both temperament (habits and emotional reactivity) and character (conscious goals and values). The results underscored the role of certain life perspectives in either fostering a healthy, gratifying, and prolonged existence or precipitating a stressful, unhealthy, and truncated life span.

This study scrutinized gene expression regulation across individuals, considering three tiers of self-awareness delineated by their combined temperament and character profiles. These levels were classified as “unregulated,” characterized by irrational emotions and ingrained habits tied to tradition and authority obedience; “organized,” emblematic of individuals adept at consciously regulating habits and fostering cooperation for mutual gain; and finally, “creative,” representing self-transcendent individuals adapting habits to live harmoniously with others, nature, or the universe, even at personal cost.

The research yielded two pivotal revelations, elucidated by UGR researcher Coral del Val, a co-lead author of the study. “First, we identified a network of 4,000 genes forming multiple modules expressed in specific brain regions. Some of these genes had been previously associated with human personality inheritance,” del Val explains. “Secondly, we unearthed that these modules form a functional interaction network capable of orchestrating gene expression changes to adapt to diverse internal and external conditions, facilitating our daily adaptation to challenges and directing our development.”

The study highlighted two sub-networks orchestrating these changes: one regulating emotional reactivity (e.g., anxiety, fear), and the other governing what individuals perceive as meaningful (e.g., conceptualization, language production). Elisa Díaz de la Guardia-Bolívar, another co-lead author, notes, “Most notably, these emotion and meaning networks are coordinated by a control center comprised of six genes. It’s intriguing that these six genes are highly conserved across evolution, underscoring their pivotal role in regulating life forms’ functioning.”

Identifying these gene networks and the control hub offers practical insights into enhancing individuals’ health, happiness, and daily life quality amidst ubiquitous challenges and stresses. Igor Zwir from UGR remarks, “Prior research revealed significant disparities in well-being among individuals in the three personality groups, corresponding to their self-awareness levels. Greater self-awareness, particularly among the creative group, correlated with heightened well-being compared to the organized and unregulated groups.”

This study suggests that cultivating a more self-transcendent and creative outlook on life could enhance health and well-being, although further exploration is warranted to ascertain whether gene expression regulation is the mediator between self-awareness and well-being. Nevertheless, interventions promoting greater self-transcendence and mindfulness have demonstrated benefits across various health dimensions, suggesting gene expression regulation could indeed mediate this association.

The study’s innovative computational methodologies facilitated the investigation of intricate biological systems in humans in an ethical, non-intrusive, and beneficial manner, aimed at elucidating pathways to healthy living, as Professor Cloninger emphasizes. He underscores the interconnectedness of mind and body, stressing that each influences the other, advocating for a perspective where past or present conditions don’t singularly dictate future well-being but rather recognizing the potential for self-cultivated well-being through a creative, open-ended process.

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