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Bad driving may have genetic basis, UCI study finds
UC Irvine ^ | October 28, 2009 | Stephanie McHughen

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.


TOPICS: Science; Society
KEYWORDS: bdnf; dalejr; driving; genes
I wonder if this ethnically or sexually linked? Just asking...
1 posted on 10/29/2009 6:14:36 AM PDT by Pharmboy
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To: blam; martin_fierro; SunkenCiv; aculeus; NonValueAdded; neverdem

“But officer, my genes made me pass that stop sign...” ping


2 posted on 10/29/2009 6:16:09 AM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Pharmboy

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!”)


3 posted on 10/29/2009 6:21:32 AM PDT by ozark hilljilly (Can I opt-out of Obamaland?)
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To: Pharmboy

LOL Of course this article is bs.


4 posted on 10/29/2009 6:25:40 AM PDT by freekitty (Give me back my conservative vote; then find me a real conservative to vote for)
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To: Pharmboy

Read “The Bell Curve” and you have the answer. But I’m sure you know anyway.


5 posted on 10/29/2009 6:30:09 AM PDT by Melchior
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To: Pharmboy

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.


6 posted on 10/29/2009 6:41:36 AM PDT by chrisser (Tweet not, lest ye a twit be.)
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To: Pharmboy

I thought it was just impatience and self-centeredness.


7 posted on 10/29/2009 6:44:24 AM PDT by Overtaxed Patriot (Lock and load)
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To: chrisser

Oh great, now bad drivers will be covered by the ADA, exempt from laws suits and tickets.


8 posted on 10/29/2009 7:10:59 AM PDT by aimhigh
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To: Melchior

Bingo.


9 posted on 10/29/2009 7:34:51 AM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Overtaxed Patriot
I thought it was just impatience and self-centeredness.

Also probably influenced to some degree by genes...

10 posted on 10/29/2009 7:36:16 AM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Pharmboy

No, it’s a memory thing; they keep forgetting to hang up and DRIVE!


11 posted on 10/29/2009 7:49:41 AM PDT by Blue Collar Christian (><BCC>NRA)
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To: Pharmboy

thanks, bfl


12 posted on 10/29/2009 8:48:41 AM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: Pharmboy

Hmmm. Darwin drives some people nuts.


13 posted on 10/29/2009 10:22:32 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: Pharmboy

This may explain the “DWA” phenomenon.


14 posted on 10/29/2009 1:01:54 PM PDT by nonsporting
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To: nonsporting

My thoughts exactly...esp. DWAW


15 posted on 10/29/2009 1:58:28 PM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Pharmboy
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

16 posted on 10/29/2009 2:32:01 PM PDT by nonsporting
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To: Pharmboy; neverdem; AdmSmith; Berosus; bigheadfred; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; ...

Thanks Pharmboy.


17 posted on 10/29/2009 5:56:41 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__Since Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: Pharmboy

So does this mean that soon the state will test for this gene and withhold licensing from those who possess said gene?


18 posted on 10/29/2009 6:32:42 PM PDT by chris_bdba
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To: Pharmboy
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.

But more than 30% of the people on the road are bad drivers?

19 posted on 10/29/2009 6:35:38 PM PDT by ThomasThomas (I don't have time to Procrastinate)
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To: chris_bdba
So does this mean that soon the state will test for this gene and withhold licensing from those who possess said gene?

Well, with a lot more data on other genes involved, and in mebbe twenty years the state DMV may do EXACTLY that.

20 posted on 10/29/2009 7:54:56 PM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: ThomasThomas

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.


21 posted on 10/29/2009 7:57:10 PM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Pharmboy; SunkenCiv
BDNF Val66Met Polymorphism Influences Motor System Function in the Human Brain
22 posted on 10/30/2009 12:43:17 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: Pharmboy

But does the research explain Asian women drivers?


23 posted on 10/30/2009 12:46:05 PM PDT by Hoffer Rand (There ARE two Americas: "God's children" and the tax payers)
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To: Hoffer Rand

If you want a fun afternoon, drive around Fort Lee, NJ some time.


24 posted on 10/30/2009 1:04:21 PM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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