Skip to comments.Bad driving may have genetic basis, UCI study finds
Posted on 10/29/2009 6:14:35 AM PDT by Pharmboy
People with gene variant perform more than 20 percent worse on driving test
Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by UC Irvine neuroscientists.
People with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it - and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant.
"These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away," said Dr. Steven Cramer, neurology associate professor and senior author of the study published recently in the journal Cerebral Cortex.
This gene variant limits the availability of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor during activity. BDNF keeps memory strong by supporting communication among brain cells and keeping them functioning optimally. When a person is engaged in a particular task, BDNF is secreted in the brain area connected with that activity to help the body respond.
Previous studies have shown that in people with the variant, a smaller portion of the brain is stimulated when doing a task than in those with a normal BDNF gene. People with the variant also don't recover as well after a stroke. Given these differences, the UCI scientists wondered: Could the variant affect an activity such as driving?
"We wanted to study motor behavior, something more complex than finger-tapping," said Stephanie McHughen, graduate student and lead author of the study. "Driving seemed like a good choice because it has a learning curve and it's something most people know how to do."
The driving test was taken by 29 people - 22 without the gene variant and seven with it. They were asked to drive 15 laps on a simulator that required them to learn the nuances of a track programmed to have difficult curves and turns. Researchers recorded how well they stayed on the course over time. Four days later, the test was repeated.
Results showed that people with the variant did worse on both tests than the other participants, and they remembered less the second time. "Behavior derives from dozens and dozens of neurophysiologic events, so it's somewhat surprising this exercise bore fruit," Cramer said.
The gene variant isn't always bad, though. Studies have found that people with it maintain their usual mental sharpness longer than those without it when neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and multiple sclerosis are present.
"It's as if nature is trying to determine the best approach," Cramer said. "If you want to learn a new skill or have had a stroke and need to regenerate brain cells, there's evidence that having the variant is not good. But if you've got a disease that affects cognitive function, there's evidence it can act in your favor. The variant brings a different balance between flexibility and stability."
A test to determine whether someone has the gene variant is not commercially available.
"I'd be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes," Cramer said. "I wonder if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant."
In addition to Cramer and McHughen, Paul Rodriguez, Laura Marchal-Crespo and Vincent Procaccio of UCI worked on the study, along with researchers from the University of Florida. The National Institutes of Health funded the study.
“But officer, my genes made me pass that stop sign...” ping
Well, this certainly explains my daughter’s ability.
My husband’s side of the family are notorious bad drivers!
(Cue the Rainman quote! “I’m an excellent driver!”)
LOL Of course this article is bs.
Read “The Bell Curve” and you have the answer. But I’m sure you know anyway.
I wonder if the same genes influence people’s career selections.
I say that because on “bank holidays”, which I like to call “bureaucrat holidays” those of us who are left on the roads at rush hour seem to be a lot more competent than those who have the day off.
I thought it was just impatience and self-centeredness.
Oh great, now bad drivers will be covered by the ADA, exempt from laws suits and tickets.
Also probably influenced to some degree by genes...
No, it’s a memory thing; they keep forgetting to hang up and DRIVE!
Hmmm. Darwin drives some people nuts.
This may explain the “DWA” phenomenon.
My thoughts exactly...esp. DWAW
Of course there are many others which also have absolutely no genetic link:
DWD -- Driving While Drowsy
DWT -- DrvngWhlTxtng
DWZOo... -- Driving While Zoning Out
So does this mean that soon the state will test for this gene and withhold licensing from those who possess said gene?
But more than 30% of the people on the road are bad drivers?
Well, with a lot more data on other genes involved, and in mebbe twenty years the state DMV may do EXACTLY that.
Well, stay tuned. This study was done with a small number of subjects; a larger study may indeed show that the gene affects a higher percentage of bad drivers.
But does the research explain Asian women drivers?
If you want a fun afternoon, drive around Fort Lee, NJ some time.